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Work-related musculoskeletal disorders or MSDs have been seen as the primary cause of early retirement among dentists and dental hygienists. Every dental professional who has been in practice for several years already has experienced MSDs at least once in their entire career. The intensity of pain and the severity of injury often vary from person to person and according to the treatment and preventive measures that each of the dental professionals does.
Unlike what most people believe, the work-related musculoskeletal disorder is not only limited to back pain, shoulder stress, and neck fatigue. It also includes pain and illnesses in other parts of the body that are being used by dentists and hygienists in performing various dental treatment procedures such as the wrists and hands. Let us take a closer look at the different types of work-related MSDs in dentistry.
Wrist and Hand Problems
Dental tools that have small-diameter handles as well as those instruments that vibrate or generate vibration typically require more force to use, manipulate, grip, or hold. Using such kinds of dental tools and instruments for a few seconds and for just a few times a week seem to cause less to no problem at all. However, if you use them daily for the dental procedures that you will perform, wrist and hand problems may develop over time.
Problems and injuries in wrists and hands like the tenosynovitis or tendinitis, injury in trigger finger, Carpal Tunnel syndrome, DeQuervain's disease, and Guyon's syndrome are often caused by chronic, repetitive motion or movements of the wrists and hands, working on awkward position, forceful work, using vibratory instruments for extended periods of time, and working for too long without any rests in between.
Upper Back Pain
Although not so common, there are some dentists and dental hygienists who suffer from extensive pain in the upper and mid section of the back. Mid and upper back pain is often due to postural and scapular muscular pain. It is more frequently caused by prolonged static body positions, poor endurance, poor muscle strength, and awkward or unneutral posture.
Lower Back Pain
Around 70% to 90% of dentists and dental hygienists experienced intermittent episodes of lower back pain. Majority of them are those working without the aid of the right magnification optical aids like Schults dental loupes and of a proper illumination device. The most common cause of lower back pain is poor posture, relatively poor endurance, and maintaining static body positions for extended periods.
While some dental professionals have successfully treated lower back pain at the early stage by taking medication, doing regular supervised stretching and exercise routines, correcting posture, and observing proper patient positioning, others were able to develop persistent intermittent lower back problems over time. The success of the treatment of lower back problems and the duration of the healing process greatly vary according to various factors including age, general wellness or health condition, and response to medication.
As you can see, all types of work-related MSDs have almost the same causes, the most common of them is poor posture which can be solved by using ergonomically designed dental tools and instruments like dental loupes and headlight.