2. The career is tough on their bodies
Dental hygienists are constantly straining their shoulders, backs, and necks. They try to use the proper equipment and ergonomics to reduce the strain, but physical stress can still occur over time. While patients recline in ergonomically designed, expensive chairs while receiving treatment, hygienists are often hunched over in awkward positions to do their jobs. Ergonomic issues are causing some hygienists to leave the profession. The physical demands may cause injuries or conditions that spiral out of control.
The work is so physically demanding because they are required to stand for long hours and use very precise, repetitive movements. Constantly trying to see into a patient’s mouth and find the right position for a precise blade angle can result in neck, shoulder and back pain. Lower back pain can result from stressed muscles due to poor posture. Carpal tunnel syndrome can occur due to repetitive motion. Many dental hygienists suffer from hand and wrist pain. Proper positioning of a patient and use of ultrasonic rather than manual tools can help to prevent this.
Repetitive stress injuries have the potential of leading to short-term and long-term disabilities. Some dental hygienists are lucky enough not to experience pain. Others say they have become used to the pain which is a problem because the pain in the body is a signal to take action. Many times, dental hygienists ignore their own comfort in attending to their patients’ welfare, but this is counterproductive in the long run.
Some hygienists invest in their own equipment to reduce body stress and allow them to practice more comfortably. An ergonomic chair with arms, larger-handled instruments or magnification loupes can all make a difference. What can also help to prevent shoulder and back muscles from getting stiff and sore is to fit some stretches into the day. If the pain does not go away, it may be necessary to receive physical therapy.