How to stay healthy in dental work

Conventional/normal conditions lead to poor health

Dental work is maybe one of the worst for your general health among all academic professions. More than half of dentists retire early and the rest continue to the bitter end with all the pains and degenerations. 

Very few retire completely healthy and ready to have an active and enjoyable retirement. Elderly dentists can even be identified by their poor upper body posture and stiffness in the neck and upper back and also by their poorly moving shoulder joint.

Why do dental professionals get crippled?

The job requires long lasting static positions in uncomfortable and unnatural positions. With ergonomic health, it is ‘all about the circulation’. Muscle tensions all over the body and pressures from the furniture combined with physical inactivity or even motionless, is a disastrous combination.  

In normal dental position the biggest, most obvious problems come from:

  • Poor spinal posture with rounded back – this harms the micro and macro circulation in the back
  • Leaning forward – this puts a lot of extra pressure on lower vertebraes and discs in the back
  • Looking down – this causes tension in the neck muscles and thus inadequate brain circulation and unnatural cervical posture
  • Holding up one or both hands at shoulder height – the safe joint angle of 30 degrees in the shoulder joints is exceeded repeatedly.

Preventive methods

The preventive measures in dental ergonomics, circulation included, comes from changing the posture, changing the chair, reorganising the position of the patient, dressing accordingly, learning to use loupes and adding physical activity into the working day. Here is a practical list:

  1. Sit correctly on a divided saddle chair with a swinging mechanism adjusted fairly loosely and with the gap completely open (if it is adjustable). A thigh angle of 135 degrees provides up to standing posture in the back, which is necessary for spinal health
  2. Dress with loosely fitting clothes, at least in the pelvic area. Loose clothes help you to keep a good posture (and ventilation) on the seat comfortably without pressure
  3. Now that you sit a lot higher than normal, adjust the unit/the height of the patient so that your hands working are slightly higher than your elbows
  4. Adjust your dental chair so that the upper body is level and, if needed, ask the patient to turn his/her head for you to see better
  5. Work as close as possible to the patient. Ask your assistant to sit close too (on a similar chair) with abducted legs. Your heads are close and both of you have an excellent view into the mouth
  6. Use loupes so that you can see in all situations without the need to bend down
  7. Put the peddle of the drill on the side where your feet should be. Using it with the heel would be best
  8. Use every chance to go walking and moving. Swing with your chair whilst sitting, roll, reach and have several steps or short walks between patients. Go walking to lunch etc and do not use an elevator
  9. Eat food that has a high content of micronutrients.

What does it take to succeed?

Just get rid of the old and destructive methods and learn the modern, proven and healthy way of working. That´s all.

Mr Veli-Jussi Jalkanen is a work environment and preventive health specialist. Veli-Jussi Jalkanen is the developer of Salli saddle chair and CEO at Salli Systems. Through his personal interest in health and his riding background he has developed a saddle chair that is one of a kind, with a divided seat. Salli saddle chairs have been exported to 58 countries worldwide through the company’s 24-year history.

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