Ergonomics is the design science that fits the work to the worker. In dentistry this means providing equipment and instruments that adapt to the operator’s fingers, arms, neck, shoulders, back, legs, and eyes. Ergonomic applications are meant to increase comfort as the dental team works to keep pace with dentistry’s ever-growing challenges.
In order to decrease work related musculoskeletal disorders, dental professionals need to be aware of their posture while working. Sitting is the posture that the dental team should assume in all clinical procedures.
Major concern should be given to the selection of the patient chair, the dentist’s and assistant’s stool, as well as accompanying equipment including the dental light, mobile cabinet and dental unit.
In order to work on a balanced posture, the following features should be followed:
- Maintain erect posture; minimize forward bending or excessive leaning over the patient.
- Use an adjustable operator’s stool with lumbar, thoracic and arm support.
- Use a clinical assistant’s stool that provides arm support and foot rest.
- Position the operator’s feet flat on the floor and the assistant’s feet firmly on the foot rest at the base of the stool.
- Work close to the body - don’t overextend the arms or body to reach patient or instruments.
- Minimize excessive wrist movements; keep in neutral position.
- Position the components of the dental unit within a 21 inch radius of the assistant to avoid reaching or turning.
- Avoid excessive finger movements or excessive gripping of the instruments.
- Position the assistant four to six inches higher than the operator to improve visibility of the operative site.
- Position the assistant’s thighs parallel to the patient chair to eliminate the need to bend or lean toward the patient.
- Select a patient chair with a narrow back to allow the dental team closer proximity to the patient.
- Place the patient in supine position.
- Check placement of adjustable light; position to avoid strain on the neck.
- Check room temperature; too cold will cause a decrease in the circulation and blood flow to the extremities.