There are exciting prospects of pursuing career in dentistry and its challenges, be that as a dentist, a dental specialist or an oral hygienist. But even dentistry has occupational hazards and there are some practical ways whereby dentists can mitigate the risks of musculoskeletal problems that often comes with our job.Scholarly research which confirms that musculoskeletal problems are widespread among dental practitioners.
Dentists have to contort their bodies while using a variety of elaborate hand tools in order to perform work in the oral cavity. Plus, they are required to maintain these positions for prolonged periods of time. This creates a problem of having static contractions and subsequently developing muscle ischemia. Muscle ischemia is thought to be a primary cause of myofacial trigger points, which can result in pain, restriction of movement and muscular atrophy. Weakness of the postural muscles may lead to a progressive of the operator’s posture, when then leads to pain.
As the old adage goes, prevention is better than cure. Some simple exercises and practices should be incorporated into our daily routine at your clinic or office.
* Maintain an erect posture–to do that, adjust your seating to minimise bending forward, thereby preserving normal curves in your spine as you sit to treat your patient.
* Keep your body in a relaxed natural position–do not work with your arms elevated and tensed. Try to bring your patient close to you so that your elbows and arms stay close to your body. Just relax. Please ensure that your hands and wrists do not remain contorted for an extended period of time.
* Change posture as frequently as you can– frequent switching between sitting and standing helps to reduce fatigue and the risk of problems associated with static muscle ischemia.
* Use dental equipment and tools that are easy on your hands–ergonomically designed equipment are available. Please consult your equipment supplier for advice.
* Take regular breaks between treatment– These breaks will enable you to do some stretching exercises. This will reduce muscular tension and give you time to recompose. Do not overstretch yourself with too many procedures at any given time
Regular exercises focussing on the back, neck and shoulders are highly recommended. Hand exercises are essential too. I squeeze a tennis ball, but you can visit any exercise equipment shop to look at an array of hand exercise gadgets, which you can use.As dentists, we are susceptible to back, neck, shoulder and other musculoskeletal injuries. We need to be careful that we do not ignore early signs we run the risk of serious problems that can result in disability.