Back to Business: Now is the time to focus on the back

Now that many of our nation’s dental offices are back open for business, you may again be feeling the pains so often associated with the work you do. We know that whether you’re a dentist, hygienist or an assistant, dentistry can be taxing on your body. With the physical contortions dental professionals typically endure for extended periods of time on a daily basis, it’s no wonder so many find themselves experiencing the effects of musculoskeletal disorders (or MSDs for short) by the time they enter the dental workforce.

A good, proper-fitting seat can make a huge difference in alleviating back, neck and shoulder pain. Not only does work-related pain reduce the quality of life for you and your team, it also costs dental practices in many other ways.

The costs of MSDs can be enormous.

Sure, it starts out as a bothersome twinge every now and then. But left unchecked and unaddressed, the pain only continues to get worse. Before you know it, you’re rushing through procedures just so you can give your back a little relief. At that point, substandard daily productivity is already taking its toll on your practice.

As the pain escalates, absenteeism-related production losses, worker’s comp claims and personal treatment costs further erode practice profitability. In fact, the MSDs can become so severe that, in some cases, they lead to premature retirement for dental professionals.

Fortunately, many MSDs are preventable.

According to the ADA, more than 300,000 injuries can be prevented each year through the use of ergonomic intervention. How can that be?

Think back to dental school and the emphasis placed on Neutral Posture. Appendages are neither moved away from the body’s midline, nor laterally turned or twisted. Elbows should be close to the body, positioned at 90-100°, with shoulders down. Feet should be flat on the floor. You want a neck flexion of 10-20°, with your sight directed at your knees.

The whole concept behind Neutral Posture is about helping you achieve the best possible posture as you practice in order to prevent muscle fatigue. It can help keep you fresher and more productive for longer periods of time. At the same time, it can help prevent MSDs. And the right ergonomic seating for the tasks you perform and your particular body type serves as the foundation for achieving that all-important Neutral Posture.

So, if we know all this, why do MSDs continue to be such a pervasive and nagging problem in the dental profession? For the most part, it’s human nature. Practices tend to look at expenditures from the top down. Often purchasing big-ticket teeth whitening systems, digital x-ray equipment and other solutions are the priority as they can be revenue generators, while seating takes a back seat. Why replace something that is still in working order, right?

And if somebody new joins the team, they tend to inherit the seat of their predecessor, whether it physically suits them or not. It doesn’t matter if their predecessor was 6’-2” tall and they are only 5’-3’’.

Yet, proper ergonomic seating literally supports the backbone of the practice. Without the dental professionals working at peak productivity day-in and day-out, you’re not going to maximize your production potential. Carefully selecting the best seat for your individual needs is good for your back, your practice and the longevity of your career.

For the latest advances in effective ergonomic dental seating solutions, see Brewer’s lineup of dental seats.

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