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Year : 2012  |  Volume : 3  |  Issue : 3  |  Page : 121-122

...How does dentistry fit you?

Department of Periodontology, National Dental College & Hospital, Dera Bassi, Punjab, India

Date of Web Publication29-Apr-2013

Correspondence Address:
Ranjan Malhotra
Department of Periodontology, National Dental College & Hospital, Dera Bassi, Punjab
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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None

DOI: 10.4103/0976-6944.111167

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How to cite this article:
Malhotra R. ...How does dentistry fit you?. Indian J Oral Sci 2012;3:121-2

How to cite this URL:
Malhotra R. ...How does dentistry fit you?. Indian J Oral Sci [serial online] 2012 [cited 2020 Jan 29];3:121-2. Available from: http://www.indjos.com/text.asp?2012/3/3/121/111167

Every 10 seconds, a worker is temporarily or permanently disabled. While it is easy to visualize a carpenter falling off a roof or a mechanic getting caught in a combine, the reality is that many work-related injuries occur while the worker is simply sitting in an office chair or on a dental stool.

More than 100 different kinds of work-related musculoskeletal injuries result from repeated biomechanical stress to the hands, wrist, elbows, shoulders, neck, and back due to sustained postures and repetitive motions. Though these kinds of disorders are seen in medical profession, oral health providers are more at risk because of the nature of their work. The combination of repetitive motions, causing friction that wears down tissues, and sustained postures that keep the blood supply away from the working tissues produces damage that builds up until it causes diseases such as carpal tunnel syndrome, tendonitis, low back pain, etc. The Bureau of Labor Statistics states that cumulative trauma disorder (CTD), the synonym for repetitive strain disorder, is the fastest growing occupational disease, emerging like an epidemic.

Carpal tunnel syndrome, highly prevalent in dentists, refers to a symptomatic compression of the median nerve within the carpal tunnel, i.e. the space between the transverse carpal ligament on the palmar aspect of the wrist and the carpal bones on the dorsal aspect of the wrist. Symptoms of carpal tunnel compression, e.g. painful tingling, numbness, and loss of grip, can appear from any activity causing prolonged increased (passive or active) pressure in the carpal canal. While the occasional wrist ache, backache, or neck ache is not a cause for alarm, if pain or discomfort that regularly occurs is ignored, the cumulative physiological damage can lead to an injury or a career-ending disability.

Today, more and more dentists are becoming aware of occupational hazards and paying more attention to the prevention of hazards. One thing that all experts [including Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA)] seem to agree on is that the key to preventing such work-related disorders is ergonomics - the science of fitting the work environment to the worker. A fundamental principle of ergonomics is to design the work area and the task around the human body, rather than force the worker to adapt to poor design and task function. Four-handed dentistry is ergonomically the most favorable way to provide dental services. Ergonomics, therefore, is an applied science concerned with designing products and procedures for maximum efficiency and safety. It is concerned with the "fit" between people and their work. It takes account of the worker's capabilities and limitations in seeking to ensure that tasks, equipment, information, and the environment suit each worker. The Ergonomic Standard mandated by the OSHA recommends that the most efficient and effective way to remedy "ergonomic hazards" causing musculoskeletal strain should be through engineering improvements in the workstation.

Available research supports the idea that ergonomic hazards can be managed or alleviated effectively using a multifaceted approach that includes preventive education, postural and positioning strategies, proper selection and use of ergonomic equipment, and frequent breaks with stretching and postural strengthening techniques. Further development of dental ergonomics must take place on the basis of a coherent vision of the future. Aspects of particular interest are: prevention of occupational diseases, legal responsibility for protecting the health and safety of employees and students, education in dental ergonomics for dental and oral hygiene students, the academic development and research of dental ergonomics, using organizational models in daily dental practice, consequently enhancing an ergonomic approach at the global level, representing a paradigm shift for daily dental practice.

The only reason for us to choose to work for shorter hours should be to enjoy more time away from the office with our loved ones, and not a forced one to limit our practice time due to pain or injury.

Wish you healthy, happy, and ergonomic extended working hours!

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