Proper Ergonomics Starts with Patient Positioning
More than 80 percent of dentists in the United States have reported suffering from neck, shoulder and lower back pain. The stress of improper ergonomics takes its toll on dentists, dental assistants and dental hygienists alike and can lead to myriad problems, including:
92% of dental clinicians reported symptoms in at least one anatomical region within one year, with dental hygienists being the group most affected
Work-related musculoskeletal disorders make up 34% of lost workdays due to injury
Nearly one-third of dental health professionals cite musculoskeletal disorders as the reason for early retirement
Here are 3 Tips for Ergonomic Patient Positioning:
- Rethink Arm Rests
Move any adjustable arm rests completely out of the way until the patient is seated properly in the chair. Arm rests not only disrupt the ease of entry and exit to the chair, they can also cause patients to position themselves too low or too far forward. Many arm rests also become “stress grips” for patients, causing them to scoot farther down the chair during procedures and create tension in their hands and shoulders.
One excellent option to avoid the improper positioning caused by most arm rests is to choose a patient chair with integrated arm rests. This design allows for easy access for the patient to the chair and easy access for the clinician to the patient. It also removes the temptation to grasp the end of the arm rest, helping patients keep their shoulders, arms and hands relaxed.
- Use the Headrest as a Bullseye
Before the patient sits in the chair, position the head rest high. A high headrest will create a bullseye for the patient, helping them stretch to a better position and get seated all the way back in the chair. Once the patient is seated, adjust the headrest to accommodate their actual height and support their neck. This positioning will give the clinician ideal access to the oral cavity.
- Adjust the Chair to the Proper Height
Positioning the chair too high is a common mistake. Ensure that, whether moving the chair to the supine or semi-supine position, the patient’s maxillary or mandibular plane remains parallel to the clinician’s forearms and elbows. This position will help clinicians maintain better posture and relieve tension in their neck and shoulders.
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