Why poor posture can be a real pain in the neck
The top tips for ensuring that you are ergonomically healthy.
What you can do
One solution, according to Pope-Ford, may be for dentists to “mix it up” and change positions throughout the day.
According to an International Journal of Clinical Pediatric Dentistry article, supine positioning of the patient in the chair is usually the most effective way to maintain neutral posture. “The chair should be raised so the operator's thighs can freely turn beneath the patient's chair. Clearance around the patient's head should at least allow unimpeded operator access from the 7 to 12:30 o’clock position, for right-handed operators.”
“For most intraoral access sites, the maxillary plane should be extended 7° beyond the vertical. For treating the maxillary second and third molars, the maxillary plane should be 25° beyond the vertical. For the mandibular anterior teeth, bring the patients chin down so the maxillary plane is 8°ahead of the vertical,” according to the article.
There is currently no industry standard for an “ergonomic instrument” to help protect you from hand and wrist injuries, according to the journal article. It’s recommended that you consider using automatic instruments instead of manual hand instruments.
Be also sure to use properly sharpened instruments to reduce excessive force: “When working edges are sharp, the instrument performs more of the work; when the edges are dulled, additional operator force is required to achieve the same result.”
Handpieces should be as light as possible and well balanced. Hose length should be as short as possible, because extra hose length adds weight, according to the article. “Avoid retractable or coiled hoses. The tension in the hose is transferred to the wrist and arm as the hose is stretched. Ideally, a pliable hose with a swivel mechanism in the barrel of the handpiece so that it can rotate with minimal effort should be used."
Dental equipment and instruments should be centered on the dental assistant. From an ergonomic viewpoint, over-the-head and over-the-patient delivery systems better allow the dental assistant to access the handpieces.
“With difficult patients and procedures, alter the sequence of the tasks to be performed, whenever possible. For example, in order to increase task rotation, instead of scaling the entire mouth, then polishing all the teeth followed by flossing, consider doing these tasks a quadrant at a time,” the article states.
Finally, it helps to alternate easy cases with difficult cases throughout the day and to allow buffer periods that accommodate emergency patients or extra time for difficult procedures.