Ergonomics and the Dental Care Worker. Washington, DC: American Public Health Association, 1998 Jun; :25-81
This chapter provides a brief summary of selected .literature on ergonomics and dentistry. It is organized into three main parts: musculoskeletal disorders and risk factors; psychosocial disorders and risk factors; and availability and effectiveness of current ergonomic interventions. The objective is to highlight selected works rather than to provide an exhaustive treatise of the literature in this area. Table 1 breaks the literature down by author, study design, sample size, instruments used (such as questionnaires), measures (from instruments used), and results and conclusions. Table 2 shows that dentists are more than twice as likely as dental assistants and dental hygienists are more than three times as likely to have repetitive musculoskeletal injuries and illnesses. Psychosocial-related musculoskeletal disorders appear to be connected with time pressures that may not allow dental personnel to fully recover between patients or tasks. These pressures may be driven by changes in the health care system that require extreme efficiency for a practice to be profitable. Finally, the availability of ergonomic interventions is limited because most solutions are reported anecdotally rather than studied systematically for effectiveness. However, recent advances in dental workplace layout, instruments, and operatory furniture show promise. Systematic, quantitative, epidemiologic evaluations of ergonomically designed dental furniture and instruments, as well as informative literature about good work practices and work postures in dentistry are needed to provide guidance in combating potentially career-ending musculoskeletal disorders such as carpal tunnel syndrome.
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