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When it comes to a lasting career, ergonomics matters
Addressing the root causes of an aching back lifts more than the bottom line.
It's no surprise that the International Journal of Dental Hygiene finds that 64 to 93 percent of dental health providers experience musculoskeletal pain, with up to 60 percent of dentists describing back issues and 85 percent reporting neck pain. As long as dentists use poor posture and do too much reaching, bending and twisting in the treatment room, they are going to be working out kinks in their necks, back and shoulders, or worse.



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Just ask San Diego-area dentist Dr. Keith Henderson, who blew through more than $20,000 in less than a year on chiropractic treatment and massage therapy before deciding to address the root cause of his pain: how he sat during procedures and interacted with his equipment.
Bodily Sacrifice
Dental professionals have heard the warnings, yet they still do whatever it takes to get their bodies into position. While toughing out the intensity and endurance of treating patients, the effort to relearn proper habits rarely gets the right amount of traction. Dentists would rather concede to pain, which seems to continue until the agony gets in the way of doing their best work, or when the injuries begin to affect their weekends.
“Exposure to repetition and exuding force leads to fatigue, discomfort and ultimately pain, which causes cumulative disorders (MSDs). And injuries can contribute to a long- term disability,” explains Ben Malone, a Certified Ergonomics Assessment Specialist (CEAS) and A-dec Regional Manager in Texas. “With all the available tools, information, and equipment options, there are alternative solutions that allow a dentist to work pain-free.”
Self-Correction Basics
Malone suggests fundamental self-correction as a first step: “My advice is to keep addressing the principles that prevent pain and strain injuries. For starters, examine posture and how you're sitting.”Without symmetry across the shoulder line, Malone explains, the daily toll can create a slow burn into the upper back rhomboid area − up in the shoulder and in the cervical − or base of the neck and shoulder.
Creating better habits involves using indirect sight lines and sitting directly behind the patient, with the oral cavity close to your lap. The assistant's setup and having the whole team working within a small radius is also an important factor.
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