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Five Tools to Enhance Ergonomics in Dental Hygiene

Article

These solutions support your health and practice and can lead to career longevity for hygienists.

ENDOSTOCK / STOCK.ADOBE.COM: Five Tools to Enhance Ergonomics in Dental Hygiene

ENDOSTOCK / STOCK.ADOBE.COM

Maintaining optimal health and well-being is crucial for dental hygienists to thrive in their profession. In addition to excellent patient care, prioritizing practitioner health and reducing the risk of injury is essential for a long, healthy career. Results from studies show that up to 96% of dental professionals experience pain in their careers.1 The most common areas affected among hygienists are the neck, shoulder, low back, and hand and wrist.2 Musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs) are caused by the following risk factors: awkward or static posture, repetitive movement, contact stress, vibration, and grip/force. Although we can’t eliminate all these factors in the dental office, there are many solutions to support career longevity for dental hygienists.

Because hygienists are at an increased risk of developing an MSD because of the nature of their work, clinicians must seek new avenues to maintain their health. One way that hygienists can reduce fatigue and the risk of injury is by employing good ergonomics.3 Although understanding the full scope of proper ergonomics may seem daunting, hygienists can start by taking simple and practical steps to improve the workplace. Practitioners can focus on adapting a neutral posture, adjusting patient and practitioner positioning, and ensuring their operatory is set up to support their health and safety.

Additionally, hygienists must consider the numerous tools available to help them practice better ergonomics, reduce strain, and improve efficiency. This article highlights 5 ergonomic products that can significantly contribute to a dental hygienist’s overall well-being and injury prevention and work to improve patient care and outcomes.

1. Supporting Neutral Posture With Ergonomic Loupes

Ergonomic loupes have revolutionized dentistry, providing a wide range of options that prioritize the well-being of all dental professionals, including hygienists. Compared with traditional loupes, which force the neck into flexion, ergonomic loupes support a neutral posture. Hygienists practicing with neutral posture drastically minimize strain on the neck, back muscles, and spine. Ergonomic loupes reduce the risk of injury and MSDs and promote long-term well-being for dental hygienists.

Advanced optics in ergonomic loupes improve vision and magnification, enhancing diagnostics and treatment for practitioners while giving hygienists the ability to practice in proper positioning throughout the patient appointment. Because there are numerous ergonomic loupes on the market, hygienists should take the time to find a pair that fits all their needs. Companies such as Lumadent, Andau Medical, and Q-Optics have developed innovative solutions tailored to the ergonomic needs of dental hygienists, empowering professionals to work comfortably while they continue to deliver exceptional care.

2. Promoting Optimal Posture and Patient Outcomes With Saddle Stools

Half the battle for dental hygienists is being comfortable while treating patients. Finding the right chair is vital to improve ergonomics and minimize the risk of injury in dental offices. Saddle stools that are designed specifically for dental practitioners play a significant role in maintaining neutral posture positioning and reducing poor posture and bad habits such as bending, leaning, or twisting. Saddle stools allow dental hygienists to practice in an upright position, aligning the spine and minimizing strain.4 A good saddle stool supports the clinician properly and allows them the flexibility to adjust their position throughout the day and during the appointment. With the ability to work closer to the patient, hygienists can find improved visibility and precision during treatment, leading to better patient outcomes.

Companies such as Crown Seating, a leading company in ergonomic seating, offer superior saddle stools that prioritize the well-being of dental professionals. Even though it may be easier to ask a colleague for a saddle stool recommendation, it’s important for hygienists to understand that because we all have different body shapes and sizes, each practitioner needs to find the right saddle stool for their body. Investing in high-quality saddle stools designed for dental practitioners is one way hygienists can minimize the risk of injuries and enhance career longevity.

3. Enhancing Mobility and Comfort With Cordless Handpieces

Cordless handpieces have changed the game in the hygiene department by enhancing mobility and comfort for practitioners. Unlike traditional handpieces with cords, going cordless offers clinicians greater flexibility and movement in the operatory. Traditional handpieces weren’t created with ergonomics in mind; these handpieces restrict movement and add strain to the practitioner’s body, increasing the risk of injury. Without the weight and battle of the cords, hygienists can maintain a neutral posture and wrist alignment, which allows clinicians to practice more comfortably, efficiently, and effectively.

Cordless handpieces also prioritize patient comfort by minimizing noise and vibration. Without the cord, hygienists have improved visibility, ensuring comprehensive treatment, supporting a more relaxed posture, and minimizing the risk of injuries. Because there are multiple cordless handpieces on the market, it is important for dental hygienists to select one that suits their preferences and enhances their comfort and ergonomics. Young Infinity and Pac-Dent ProMate CL are 2 options designed for optimal performance, comfort, and ease of use.

4. Reducing Strain and Ensuring Longevity With Ergonomic Instruments

The choice and usage of dental instruments significantly affect ergonomics and the risk of injury for dental hygienists. Dull instruments in particular pose a greater risk of injury because of increased grip force exertion. Luckily, the market offers innovative solutions such as sharpen-free technologies and ergonomic instrument designs. Instruments such as American Eagle’s Sharpen-Free technology and HuFriedyGroup’s Harmony series offer ergonomic features such as wider-textured handles and balanced designs, providing ease and comfort to dental hygienists. Employing sharp and ergonomic instruments supports career longevity and ensures practitioners can work comfortably and safely.

5. Enhancing Visibility and Patient Experience With Intraoral Cameras

Intraoral cameras offer multiple benefits to dental hygienists, patients, and practices alike. By providing enhanced visibility of hard-to-reach areas in the mouth, intraoral cameras enable dental professionals to deliver a higher level of care without compromising their posture. Intraoral cameras eliminate the need for rounding, leaning, and twisting for better vision, allowing the practitioner to maintain a neutral posture during the appointment and therefore reducing the risk of a work-related injury.

Intraoral cameras empower dental hygienists to engage patients by showing them real-time visuals of their oral health, leading to improved patient outcomes and experiences. Intraoral camera images serve as an important part of the documentation process, but they also build a deeper trust with patients, supporting a healthy practice. MouthWatch offers a high-value, low-cost intraoral camera option that aligns with the triple win of benefiting hygienists, patients, and dental practices. Intraoral cameras are a great way for dental hygienists to deliver exceptional care without risking their health.

Supporting Career Longevity With Ergonomic Tools

Maintaining practitioner health and well-being is paramount for dental hygienists. By incorporating good ergonomics and utilizing ergonomic tools, such as ergonomic loupes, saddle stools, cordless handpieces, ergonomic instruments, and intraoral cameras, practitioners can significantly reduce the risk of injury. These tools play a crucial role in enhancing ergonomics and ensuring a long and successful career in dental hygiene. To continue providing the best quality care for our patients, clinicians must first prioritize their own health and well-being.

References
1. Lietz J, Kozak A, Nienhaus A. Prevalence and occupational risk factors of musculoskeletal diseases and pain among dental professionals in Western countries: a systematic literature review and meta-analysis. PLoS One. 2018;13(12):e0208628. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0208628
2. Saccucci M, Zumbo G, Mercuri P, et al. Musculoskeletal disorders related to dental hygienist profession. Int J Dent Hyg. 2022;20(3):571-579. doi:10.1111/idh.12596
3. Gupta A, Bhat M, Mohammed T, Bansal N, Gupta G. Ergonomics in dentistry. Int J Clin Pediatr Dent. 2014;7(1):30-34. doi:10.5005/jp-journals-10005-1229
4. Gouvêa GR, de Andrade Vieira W, Paranhos LR, de Macedo Bernardino M, Bulgareli JV, Pereira AC. Assessment of the ergonomic risk from saddle and conventional seats in dentistry: a systematic review and meta-analysis. PLoS One. 2018;13(12):e0208900. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0208900
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