Dental Ergonomics: Understanding the Importance of Comfort and Safety in the Dental Workplace 

Dentistry is a physically demanding industry. Dental professionals often spend the majority of their day bent over patients, performing both the common and more intensive procedures that make up the workload of an average dental professional. During your career, you’re at considerable risk of developing a musculoskeletal disorder. This is an injury that affects the muscles, tendons and ligaments. It can result in considerable pain when you’re working. An effective way to combat this is by understanding the key principles of dental ergonomics and incorporating these into your daily practice. 

In this blog, we explore the general principles of dental ergonomics and how the Guided Biofilm Therapy protocol can help you better engage with your work and reduce your risk of injury. 

What are Dental Ergonomics?

Dental ergonomics looks at how dental professionals interact with their work environment, with the goal of ensuring they are carrying out day-to-day procedures comfortably and efficiently. It looks holistically at the way dental professionals perform procedures, how they use their equipment and how they set up their workstations and their practices. By following the principles of good dental ergonomics, dental professionals can prevent physical strain and fatigue issues.

Examples of Dental Ergonomics 

Broadly, you can categorise dental ergonomics into two sections: ergonomics for dental professionals and ergonomics for dental patients. Some of the most common examples of dental ergonomics include:

  • Dental chairs and operator stools: the type of chairs and stools used in procedures and how easy they are to adjust are essential factors for dental professional and patient ergonomics
  • Lighting and magnification: clear visibility for dental practitioners while performing procedures is key, to reduce eye strain
  • Instrumentation: correct use of dental instruments is important, as is choosing instruments that are well designed and easy to use

Why are Dental Ergonomics important?

Poor dental ergonomics can lead to a range of issues for dental practitioners. If things like seating, instrumentation and lighting aren’t taken into account, dental practitioners are at risk of developing eye strain, back pain, neck pain and carpal tunnel syndrome, which can then stop practitioners from being able to work. Practising effective dental ergonomics - even something as simple as correcting your posture while working - can significantly reduce and even prevent this from happening. 

Tips for Implementing Dental Ergonomics in the Workplace

Here is a guide on how you can implement better dental ergonomics in your workplace:

  • Conduct an assessment of your current practices: what is your current setup at work, and what are the potential ergonomic risks and areas for improvement?
  • Educate yourself and the team on proper ergonomics: the ideal ergonomic setup depends on the procedure you are performing and the tools you use. Determine the proper posture and positioning for these procedures, and ensure all team members follow the recommendations.
  • Encourage stretch breaks: reduce muscle tension and the risk of injury to dental professionals by encouraging your team to take stretch breaks.
  • Monitor and adjust: dental ergonomics is not something you can set and forget. Refresh your knowledge with ongoing dental ergonomic training and encourage team members to evaluate if certain practices benefit them or if more work needs to be done. 

This simple guide will get you started on your journey towards better dental ergonomics. One key factor in improving dental ergonomics and reducing injury among dental professionals is choosing the right tools and instruments. This is why we at EMS created the Guided Biofilm Therapy protocol and the associated EMS technologies, such as EMS AIRFLOW®, PERIOFLOW® and PIEZON® No Pain.

The GBT protocol is set up so that when approaching each of the 8 steps involved, dental professionals have the opportunity to address the following elements of ergonomics:

  • posture
  • patient positioning
  • lighting and magnification

Being conscious of these elements as you move through the protocol encourages dental professionals to adjust as needed, lowering the risk of injury. Our EMS technologies, compared with conventional options, also have key ergonomic benefits. The GBT tools are lighter in weight, require less force to use, reducing instances of muscle fatigue in hands and fingers and offer more efficient use of time, reducing the stress that can negatively impact on posture and the ability to make decisions. You can read more about the ergonomic benefits of using EMS’ GBT protocol in a post by experienced SDA trainer Jennine Bywaters.

There are many more ergonomic benefits when using EMS’ Guided Biofilm Therapy protocol - give your staff an effective and thorough education by considering SDA’s Intensive PIEZON® Ultrasonics & Ergonomics Masterclass. This Masterclass explores how PIEZON® instrumentation can be integrated into clinical protocols for biofilm management and calculus removal during preventative and periodontal maintenance. Importantly, it also has modules focusing on furthering your understanding of how positioning and ergonomics for ultrasonic use will reduce discomfort for you and your patients. It’s suitable for all dental professionals looking to upskill or refresh their existing skills.

SDA also offers two other courses focused on the GBT protocol, including GBT Fundamentals: Mastering Preventative Dentistry in the 21st Century and GBT Masterclass: Periodontal & Implant Maintenance Masterclass.

Care for patients while caring for yourselves

Implementing good dental ergonomics can greatly assist dental professionals, but it also has significant benefits for patients. 

By following good ergonomic practices, including the GBT protocol, dental professionals can complete their procedures efficiently, meaning patients also experience the benefits of a more effective procedure. For an effective education in dental ergonomics, choose SDA.

Our Intensive PIEZON® Ultrasonics and Ergonomics Masterclass is a half-day dental CPD course and is currently conducted around Australia in NSW, WA, SA, VIC and QLD, with morning and afternoon options available. You can find out more on our Dental CPD courses page. For masterclass options in New Zealand, please speak to Ivoclar Vivadent New Zealand.

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