Physical Health and Ergonomics

Dental hygienists know the toll the profession takes on the body. Many develop neck, back, shoulder, elbow, and hand complaints as a result of poorly designed workspaces, improper equipment or poor positioning. In addition, the very movements required for providing clinical dental hygiene care put dental hygienists at high risk for repetitive stress injuries, which cause pain and discomfort and can shorten their careers. Proper ergonomics and physical fitness are essential for a long, healthy career and enjoying life outside the profession. Use these resources to evaluate, achieve, and maintain your physical well-being.

Your Injury Prevention Checklist

Use the following checklist to assess your working environment and positioning.

Operatory Equipment

Operatory Equipment
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Reduce your risk of strain or injury even further by using a hybrid saddle stool or true saddle stool, or by investing in cordless handpieces.

Body Ergonomics
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To protect your arms, back, and neck, always sit as close to your client as possible and lean forward from the hips. Remember to maintain optimal clock position around your client’s head during treatment.

Hand Ergonomics
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Hand fatigue and carpal tunnel syndrome are well-known professional hazards. To maintain a relaxed grasp while providing care, choose hand instruments with larger and varied handle diameters. Use ultrasonic devices to reduce hand fatigue.

Client Position
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Do not compromise your position for your client! While you may need to stand to treat pregnant clients or those with vertigo, these are exceptional cases. The client is in your chair for 45 minutes or so, while you must provide clinical care all day. Maintaining good posture is a priority.

Prevention is Key

A dental hygienist can have a long and rewarding career but staying healthy is key. Be mindful of your ergonomics at all times.

  • Continually assess your position, your choice of instrument and equipment, your hand position during instrumentation, and your client’s position.
  • Incorporate stretches before the first appointment, at lunch, and at the end of the day.
  • Stay hydrated and eat nutritious meals and snacks.
  • Strive to be physically fit to lessen the strain of static positioning and repetitive movements used during instrumentation.
  • Practise yoga to relax your mind and body. Avoid positions such as Downward Dog, which require you to support your body weight on extended wrists.
  • Consult other health professionals (e.g., a massage therapist, physiotherapist or chiropractor) to help keep your body in good working order.
  • Seek medical advice if you have an injury or unresolving pain.
  • Discuss ergonomic concerns with your employer.

Remember: your mental health is just as important as your physical health. For tips on managing stress, visit our Psychological Well-Being page.

Regular assessment of your work environment and your own ergonomics, coupled with a commitment to healthy living, are steps you can take to enjoy a lengthy career in your chosen profession!