Pedal power

I don’t want to give readers the impression I have all the answers, because that is far from the truth. There are many things I struggle with in the surgery – and one of them is the foot pedal on the dental chair.

I am, as they say, vertically challenged, with short arms and legs. I won’t go into the arm problems now, but from my sitting position I cannot easily reach the pedals to move the chair, and foot controls are so complicated these days.

One chair has eight buttons and each one has at least two functions. If you give a button a glancing blow it does one thing; if you press it firmly it does something else.

This usually results in me reaching out with my foot while telling the patient: ‘I’m going to put the chair forward so you can have a rinse’ and the wretched thing heads towards the ceiling. How can I retain any professional dignity?

At one practice, I worked in the principal’s surgery and his foot controls were so complex I could only operate them by removing my shoes.

Each button had four functions, depending on which side of the button you hit. There was no question of seamless dentistry. I had to remove my hands from the patient’s mouth so I could look down at the floor, remove my shoe, then reach out with my foot and pray the chair was going to do what I wanted.

If a chair designer could come up with user-friendly foot controls there should be a reward of some sort. Surely everyone can’t be tall with big feet, can they?

When I began my training we were asked if we were good with our hands. The question nowadays should be: ‘Can you do complicated things with your feet without looking?’

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