Ergonomics plays a significant role in everyday dental practice. One’s own posture, the workplace equipment and the choice of tools and instruments are important factors in creating an ergonomic working environment and thus preventing health problems.
Working in a dental practice can be very challenging for the body. When working on patients, the practitioner often remains in a rigid position for a long period of time. The upper body is usually bent forward and twisted; the arms are extended far away from the body. Problems such as spinal issues and shoulder or neck pain are common consequences of such poor posture. In addition, health impairments negatively affect well-being, quality of life and enjoyment of dental work.
The consequences of incorrect posture and other physical stresses at the workplace often only become apparent in the long term. For this reason, it is all the more critical to develop an awareness of one’s own working environment at an early stage and to bring about a preventive behavioural change through occasional self-monitoring and small measures.
To avoid health problems, you should observe the following rules:
The natural S-shape of the spine is supported by an upright sitting posture, which ensures an even distribution of pressure. The muscles should not be neglected. The back and abdominal muscles provide important support. Set aside 10-15 minutes a day to exercise these muscles.
- Your shoulders should be straight – do not raise them.
- Your feet should be flat on the floor.
- The angle between the upper and lower leg should be approx. 110° to 130°.
- Your forearms should be parallel to the floor.
- Keep your wrists straight.
- The arm position should be relaxed and close to the body.
- Your buttocks should cover 2/3 of the dental stool.
- Maintain an eye-to-object distance of about 35 cm.
In addition, it is advisable to change your sitting position as often as possible. By alternating your movements and positions, different muscle groups are activated or relaxed. Moving and changing posture also have a beneficial effect on concentration. Try carrying out certain activities standing up. These could be activities such as making phone calls. However, it is also possible to carry out treatment in either a standing or sitting position. The patient’s position and the height of the dental chair are factors that influence whether the practitioner can work sitting or standing. The difference in height between the practitioner and the assistant also plays a role here. The workplace equipment and the choice of devices and instruments should be adapted to the practitioner. If the necessary equipment is within easy reach during a treatment, unnecessary overstretching and twisting of the body is avoided.
Use small breaks to incorporate short and quick relaxation exercises into your daily work routine, such as “apple picking” or raising your shoulders while inhaling and relaxing them again while exhaling. Brief walks in the fresh air also have a positive effect on the body and concentration.
The quality and choice of operative equipment play a significant role in supporting correct positions in the workplace. The focus should not only be on the patient’s sitting and lying comfort but also on ergonomics for the practitioner.
Many workstations in a dental practice do not allow a change in sitting position because the unit only supports a 9 o’clock position. A lack of legroom can lead to the practitioner and assistant getting in each other’s way and adopting unnatural sitting positions.
An independent seal of approval can help with making a good choice when it comes to selecting the treatment unit. The TÜV seal for technical safety, the tests of the Stiftung Warentest consumer foundation and the seal of the Aktion Gesunder Rücken eV (AGR) [Campaign for Healthier Backs] are well-known in this respect.
Hand instruments / dental instruments
Practitioners achieve perfect results with hand instruments. This is especially due to the good tactile sensitivity and the precise handling of the fine working end. In particular, when working with hand instruments, it is important to pay attention to ergonomic use and the right choice of instruments. The pressure applied should be kept to a minimum in order to be gentle on the muscles.
Attention should be paid to the following points during their use:
- Modified pen grasp
- Working angle
- Work technique
- Work system
Hand instruments are held in a modified pen grasp.
The thumb, index and middle finger are positioned together to form an entity. The thumb rests between the index and middle fingers on the opposite side of the instrument. The index finger provides support. It also serves as a support point for changing the angle of the instrument. If possible, always rest your hand intraorally. If it is supported extraorally, there is a risk of slipping. The movement does not come from the fingers but from the whole arm. This prevents joint and ligament damage.
Lowering the forearm and moving it in the opposite direction over the ring finger support moves the instrument coronally. The front third of the working end must be modified. The working angle differs according to the type of instrument. With scalers or universal curettes, the terminal shank must be inclined approx. 20° to the tooth axis. Gracey and Double Gracey curettes already have this angle predefined due to their sloping facial surfaces, meaning that the terminal shank must be placed parallel to the surface to be treated.
The development and production of American Eagle instruments primarily focused on ergonomic aspects. The use of wider handles allows for work that is easy on the muscles. At the same time, special attention was paid to good grip. The grip structure of both metal and plastic handles has been optimally designed. EagleLite® plastic handles offer unrivalled tactility with their lightness, thus supporting work that is gentle on the patient.
Correct sharpening also plays a significant role in ergonomics. Incorrect geometry and inadequate cutting edges result in significantly more effort for the practitioner. American Eagle sharpen-free instruments with XP Technology® offer the solution here. In this way, the curette blades remain perfectly round throughout their entire service life and are not sharpened into scalers. Thus the typical error of incorrect cutting edges on the instrument is no longer an issue.