Dentist Ergonomics: Small Changes That Can Make a Big Difference!

Dentistry is a demanding profession that requires dentists to work long hours in close proximity to patients. The physical demands of the job can take a toll on a dentist's body over time, leading to pain, discomfort, and even injury. This is where the concept of "dentist ergonomics" comes in.

In this article, the following topics are discussed in turn:

What is dental ergonomics?

Ergo = Work

Nomos = Law

"Designing the workstation to fit the worker rather than forcing the worker to fit the workstation"

According to the prestigious International Ergonomics Association (IEA) , ergonomics is the scientific study of the human body's interactions with the environment.

This field involves utilizing theoretical principles, data, and techniques to create a design that maximizes human well-being and overall system performance.

During a typical dental treatment, the dentist frequently leans over the patient to achieve optimal treatment precision.

Dentist ergonomics is the study of how dentists can improve their work environment and physical positioning to reduce the risk of injury and improve their overall well-being.

The goal of dental ergonomics is to create a workspace that is comfortable, safe, and efficient for sitting and standing dentists , allowing dentists to perform their job without experiencing unnecessary strain or discomfort.

Dentist ergonomics

The importance of ergonomic dentistry

How important is the position of dentist while working?

The importance and benefits of good dental ergonomics cannot be overstated. According to a study published in the Journal of the American Dental Association, about 60% of dentists experience some form of musculoskeletal pain during their career.

This pain can be caused by repetitive motions, awkward postures, and prolonged periods of standing or sitting.

In addition, ignoring ergonomics in the dental office comes at a price.

Dentist ergonomics at Enamel Clinic in Capetown together with Happynecks cushion

Ergonomic risk factors

Ergonomic risk factors are elements that can lead to discomfort, pain, or injury in the musculoskeletal system.

"Fire Triangle" or ergonomics

There are three key factors that make up the "Fire Triangle" of ergonomics:

  1. Posture.
  2. Force.
  3. and frequency.

Fire Triangle in Ergonomics

Posture refers to non-neutral positions, where the body is not in its natural, relaxed alignment.

Poor posture can put excessive strain on muscles, tendons, and ligaments, leading to discomfort and pain over time.

To prevent this, it is essential to maintain a neutral posture and adjust the workstation to support proper alignment.

Force refers to excessive weight, grip, or pressure applied to the body during work tasks. This can lead to muscle fatigue and discomfort, particularly in the hands, wrists, and arms.

To minimize the risk of injury from force, workers should use ergonomic tools and equipment, take frequent breaks, and avoid overexertion.

Frequency relates to the lack of frequency or too high of frequency of performing a task.

Repetitive motions or tasks can lead to musculoskeletal disorders over time. Workers should take frequent breaks and vary their tasks to minimize the risk of injury.

By addressing these ergonomic risk factors, workers can reduce the risk of discomfort, pain, and injury in the workplace.

Employers can also support their workers by providing ergonomic tools and equipment and promoting good ergonomic practices.

Reasons for early retirement among dentists

  1. Musculoskeletal disorders (29.5%)
  2. Cardiovascular disease (21.2%)
  3. Neurotic symptoms (16.5%)
  4. Tumors (7.6%)
  5. Diseases of the nervous system (6.1%).

Source: ( 1. Murphy DC (NYU College of Dentistry, USA). Ergonomics and dentistry. NY State Dent J. 1997 Aug-Sep; 63 (7):30–34. [ PubMed ] [ ] [ Ref list ])

Good working ergonomics is essential so that work capability, efficiency and high clinical level of treatment can be maintained throughout the working life of dental professionals.

The scope of ergonomics in dentistry is large: it ranges from chemistry between the dental team to lighting, noise and odor conditions and of course to the used equipment and software.

The treatment environment with the patient chair, dental unit, operating light, dynamic and hand instrumentation, cabinetry and peripheral equipment must be flexible.

They need to adapt and guarantee good working postures, sufficient lighting and easy access to required instrumentation and materials for different working practices, clinical procedures and patient types.

Steps to improve dental practice ergonomics

To address these issues, dentists can take several steps to improve their ergonomics.

  1. First, they can adjust their equipment to better fit their body size and type. This can include adjusting the height of the dental chair, position of the dental chair , the position of the light, and the location of the instruments.
  2. Next, dentists can modify their working posture to reduce the risk of injury. This can include sitting in a neutral position, using ergonomic stools and chairs, and keeping their elbows close to their body.
  3. In addition to physical adjustments, dentists can also incorporate breaks and stretching exercises into their workday. This can help relieve tension and reduce the risk of injury.
  4. The use of the Happynecks® pillow allows an ergonomic sound posture of the practitioner. Upper legs spread 40˚, symmetrical posture with arms straight in front of body.

Ergonomics dental assistant

Dental assistants play an important role in ensuring dental procedures are carried out smoothly and efficiently. However, the job of a dental assistant often requires them to spend long hours in uncomfortable positions.

The lack of proper ergonomics in the dental office can lead to various musculoskeletal disorders, including back pain, neck pain, and wrist injuries.

These injuries not only affect the physical health of the dental assistant but also decrease their productivity and overall job satisfaction.

Imagine having to work in a dental office where the dental chair is too low or too high, the instruments are not within reach, and the work surface is too high or too low. This would require you to contort your body in unnatural ways, causing strain and discomfort.

As a result, you may experience pain in your back, neck, and shoulders, which can become chronic over time. Not only does this affect your health, but it also affects your job performance.

You may find yourself taking more breaks, which can cause delays and decrease productivity.

The solution to this problem is to incorporate proper ergonomics in the dental office. It is the science of designing the workplace to fit you as a worker, not the other way around.

By implementing proper ergonomics in the dental office, dental assistants can work comfortably and efficiently, while reducing the risk of musculoskeletal disorders.

Ergonomics and stress in dentistry

Dentistry is a physically demanding profession that requires a great deal of precision and concentration.

Dental practitioners spend long hours in awkward positions, often leaning over patients, which can lead to various musculoskeletal disorders such as neck and back pain.

Additionally, dentists may face psychological stress from the nature of their work, such as the fear and anxiety of their patients, the pressure to perform to high standards, and the management of a busy practice.

These physical and mental challenges can negatively impact a dentist's productivity, efficiency, and overall health. Chronic pain and stress can lead to burnout, decreased job satisfaction, and even early retirement.

Moreover, the financial burden of treating musculoskeletal disorders and managing stress-related illnesses can be substantial, both for individual dentists and the healthcare industry as a whole.

Ergonomics and stress are significant challenges faced by dentists, but they can be managed with proper attention and resources.

Implementing ergonomic principles and practice management strategies can help reduce the physical and mental strain of dentistry, promoting long-term health and job satisfaction for practitioners.

By addressing these issues, dentists can continue to provide high-quality care to their patients without sacrificing their own well-being.

How dental ergonomics helps your patients as well

Dentist ergonomics in dental hygiene is not only important for the well-being of dentists, but also for their patients.

By maintaining good dental posture and positioning with dental ergonomic exercises , dentists can perform their job more efficiently and effectively, leading to better patient outcomes.

All our products are developed by combining human anatomy and clinical research with science. The same goes for the Happynecks® Lumbar lower back support

Conclusion; Dentist ergonomics is a critical aspect of the dental profession

In conclusion, dentist ergonomics is a critical aspect of the dental profession that should not be overlooked.

By taking steps and find ergonomic solutions and tools for dentists to improve your work environment and physical positioning, dentists can reduce the risk of injury, improve their overall well-being, and provide better care for their patients.

In this video underneath Dr. Rafi Romano, specialist in orthodontics , explains how our Happynecks cushion helps improve his own ergonomics as well as the patient comfort and ergonomics.