Monday, January 22, 2018

The Pain of Being in Dentistry and the ADA's 2015 Survey on Well Being

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Until the late 1960s, dentists treated patients while standing up.  However, “stand up dentistry” was well known to cause knee problems, varicose veins in the legs, and a host of other maladies.  So in the late 1960s training shifted to teaching dentists how to treat patients from a sitting position.  Now, about 50 years later, the profession is seeing dentists experiencing a different set of health problems because of the sitting posture.
When you discuss the work related injuries that practicing dentistry can cause, most people (including myself when I had just graduated) will think of repetitive stress type injuries like carpal tunnel syndrome.  While these injuries do occur, they don’t occur in near the frequency that others do.  As I got into my 40’s I noticed an interesting trend.  Many of the older dentists I had become friends with starting to complain of the aches and pains that come with age AND with the practice of dentistry.  The amazing thing to me was that very few of them had problems with their hands or wrists.  No, these doctors were having troubles with neck and back issues.  Many of them reduced their office hours, some were forced to retire and collect from their disability insurance.
I was stunned to learn from a physical therapist that over 60% of dentists who are forced to declare disability do so because of neck and back issues.
As The Technology Evangelist, I have a couple of suggestions to help with this.  The first is using high quality magnification as this helps you maintain a good clinical posture without forcing you to lean and stress your  neck and/or back.  The other is to use an LED light mounted onto your magnification.  This allows for a highly lit field that is easier to see which requires less leaning and you will never have to reach up and move a track light again.
In 2015, the ADA did a survey on the health problems dentists encounter and it is interesting reading.  There is an article about it in the ADA News and if you would like to read or download the complete survey, you can access it in pdf format with this link.  

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