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    How better dental office design can prolong your career

    Not being mindful of ergonomics can lead to an unwanted, early retirement.


    Movements matter

    When the doctor or assistant gets in position and is ready to work is the next consideration. The patient and the necessary tools and equipment must be within reach and located on the same plane.

    The average location of a patient’s oral cavity is 32 inches from the floor, when they’re fully reclined, Dr. Carter notes.

    “We want to make ergonomic planes where everything is more efficient,” Dr. Carter says.

    As such, tools and side cabinets should be located at about the same height as the patient’s oral cavity.

    “It should be in-sync and in-plane with the patient’s oral cavity,” Dr. Carter says. “So it doesn’t make sense to have supporting services that are at 24 inches and then having to reach down or at 48 inches and have to reach up higher and then come back down to the oral cavity.”

    The world of ergonomics is broken down into five different movement classes:

    • Class I: Finger movements

    • Class II: Wrist movements

    • Class III: From the elbow to the hands

    • Class IV: Shoulder movements

    • Class V: Torqueing at the torso

    Keeping everything on the same plane reduces move extreme, damaging movements.

    Trending article: Why it's critical to design with the future in mind

    “We’re minimizing unhealthy ergonomic movements, like Class IV movements, where we have to reach for things,” Dr. Carter says. “And when we’re working on the same plane, we can limit ourselves to Class I, II and III—the Class IVs and Vs should be avoided as much as possible.”

    Get help

    There’s nothing wrong with asking for help. Consulting with an ergonomist, a practice designer or even an equipment supplier can prove beneficial.

    “The best thing to do is to get with one of the big dental distributors,” Dr. Rice says. “Get with somebody that does office design for living. They’ve done this time and time and time again, and having the right support system on your site will save you tons of money and hassle down the line.”

    “The dealer reps are all trained to help coach doctors and then you’re going make a well-designed operatory,” Dr. Carter adds. “It’s not intuitively obvious how some of that works. Some people will sit in improper, poor positions and try to make the operatory work, not understanding the design intent.”

    Whether remodeling your office or just making some small changes to the uncomfortable ways you may be working can make your day less painful and can lead to a longer, happier career.


    Robert Elsenpeter
    Robert Elsenpeter is a freelance writer and frequent contributor to Dental Products Report and Digital Esthetics. He is also the author ...


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