Musculoskeletal Disorders (MSD) is one of the major problems facing healthcare professionals particularly dental and dental sanitation practitioners (Dayakar, Gupta, Philip & Pai, 2013). Studies indicate increased prevalence of musculoskeletal disorders among health professionals. Besides, probable contributing factors have also been identified.
Associative risk factors that have been identified include inert and uncomfortable positions during work as well as unhealthy occupational practices.
Essentially, musculoskeletal disorders include a variety of ill health ranging from minor ephemeral disorders to irreparable disabling injuries (AlWazzan, Almas, ElShethri & AlQuahtani, 2001). While the problem is caused by various factors, this study focuses on the musculoskeletal disorders induced and aggravated by the occupational practices among dental health workers.
Prevalence of Musculoskeletal Disorders among Dental Professionals
Currently, dental personnel have experienced increased problems associated with musculoskeletal disorders. Studies indicate high prevalence rate of musculoskeletal disorders among dentists. In fact, most dentists that have been studied report pains in the back and wrists. Such reported pains are considered possible symptoms of the disorder.
Besides, researches indicate that MSD in dentistry is one of the major contributing factors to sick leaves and reduced productivity (Leggat & Smith, 2006). In addition, wide varieties of causative factors ranging from poor work practices to ignorance of right positions during work processes have been attributed to increased prevalence of musculoskeletal disorders among the dental and dental hygiene practitioners.
However, the physical burden associated with clinical work has been identified as the major causative factor of MSD among the dental health workers. Parts of the body likely to be affected by work burden and poor physical postures among the dental professionals include backbone, wrists and neck support systems (Hayes, Cockrell & Smith, 2009).
Musculoskeletal disorders usually occur when important body support system is highly constraint. In other words, the skeletal system of an individual is exposed to increased work constraints compared with required load-bearing capacity. The result is injuries in the skeletal support system. In most cases, muscle sprains as well as irritations in joints identify injuries in the skeletal support systems.
The injuries may be severe when the bones and cartilages have undergone serious degeneration (Smith, Mihashi, Adachi, Koga & Ishtake, 2006). Besides, musculoskeletal disorders normally result in two different types of injuries including acute and chronic bone damages. Increased pain in joints and tendon insertions characterize acute injuries.
Acute injuries are caused by strong and short-term heavy load, which put a sudden strain on the support system. On the other hand, chronic injuries are characterized by prolonged pain in tendons and ligaments that connect the skeletal system.
Chronic injuries results from permanent overload that put constant strain on the support system. Surprisingly, majority ignore chronic injuries due to their incapability of causing immediate health problems (Valachi & Valachi, 2003).
Risks usually occur because of exposure to harmful situations. A number of risk factors are associated with musculoskeletal disorders. Besides, researches indicate that young professionals in dental surgery have greater degree of exposure to risk factors compared with older dentists (Lindfors, Von Thiele & Lundberg, 2006). The demanding nature of clinical work contributes immensely to the development of MSD.
Dentists working for long hours using repetitive motions and vibrating instruments are likely to develop the disorder (Dong, Loomer, Barr, Laroche, Young & Rempel, 2007). Similarly, dentists in a high work zone with unsupported forearms that put a lot of pressure on their locomotors apparatus are likely to develop the disorder.
Additionally, long-lasting repetitive muscles during a particular work process may lead to permanent changes in muscle structure of an individual. Besides, the working postures of dental health workers are equally a contributing risk factor (Marklin & Cherney, 2005). Generally, it is evident that the working posture of dentists contributes to musculoskeletal problems associated with the profession.
Appropriate ergonomic practices have been identified as one of the preventive measures of MSD. Dentists should opt for appropriate equipments that allow comfortable postures, minimize vibrations and create appropriate positioning of patients. Identifying and mitigating early symptoms of MSD would go a long way in preventing musculoskeletal problems (Amell & Kumar, 2001).
Members of a dental team should operate from a wide counter and adjustable surfaces that facilitate an easier access to devices and tools during diagnosis.
Using instruments with large diameters would require less griping force resulting in reduced risk of repetitive strain injuries. In addition, textured instruments require easy grip compared with plain instruments. Finally, dentists are encouraged to work with assistants to avoid unnecessary movements.
In summary, it is evident that MSD is one of the major concerns in occupational health particularly among dental professionals. Risk factors for the disorder normally arise when constraints exerted by the workload and functional capacity of the support system is not at equilibrium.
The demanding nature of a dentist’s work, increased repetitive frequency in work processes, static muscle forces and the working postures of dental health workers have been identified as the main accelerators of musculoskeletal problems. As such, a balance work schedules and appropriate occupational practices can help in the prevention of musculoskeletal problems.
AlWazzan, K. A., Almas, K., ElShethri, S. E. & AlQuahtani, M. Q. (2001). Back and neck problems among dentists and dental auxiliaries. Journal of Contemporary Dental Practice, 2(1), 1–10.
Amell, T. & Kumar, S. (2001). Work-related musculoskeletal disorders: Design as a prevention strategy. Journal of Occupational Rehabilitation, 11(2), 255-265.
Dayakar, M. M., Gupta, S., Philip, G. & Pai, P. (2013). Prevalence of musculoskeletal disorder among dental practitioners. ASL Musculoskeletal Disease, 1(1), 22-25.
Dong, H., Loomer, P., Barr, A., Laroche, C., Young, E. & Rempel, D. (2007). The effect of tool handle shape on hand muscle load and pinch force in a simulated dental scaling task. Applied Ergonomics, 38(1), 525–531.
Hayes, M. J., Cockrell, D. & Smith, D. R. (2009). A systematic review of musculoskeletal disorders among dental professionals. International Journal Dentist Hygiene, 7(1), 159–165.
Leggat, P. A. & Smith, D. R. (2006). Musculoskeletal disorders self-reported by dentists in Queensland, Australia. Australian Dentists Journal, 51(2), 324–327.
Lindfors, P., Von Thiele, U. & Lundberg, U. (2006). Work characteristics and upper extremity disorders in female dental health workers. Journal of Occupational Health, 48(1), 192–197.
Marklin, R. W. & Cherney, K. (2005). Working postures of dentists and dental hygienists. Journal of Canadian Dentists Association, 33(1), 133–136.
Smith, D. R., Mihashi, M., Adachi, Y., Koga, H., & Ishtake, T. (2006). A detailed analysis of musculoskeletal disorder risk factors among Japanese nurses. Journal of Safety Research, 37(1), 195–200.
Valachi, B. & Valachi, K. (2003). Mechanism leading to musculoskeletal disorders in dentistry. Journal of American Dentist Association, 134(4), 1344-1350.
- What is your understanding of musculoskeletal disorders? Who are healthcare professionals? In what way are such disorders affect professional health workers?
- What are the causative factors of MSD? How do these factors affect professional health workers?
- Who are dental health workers? What kind of work do dental health workers perform? What are the roles of all players in dentistry in the prevention of musculoskeletal disorders?
- What do you understand by the term ‘occupational health? What are some of the occupational health problems in dentistry?
- How do musculoskeletal disorders affect dental health workers? What are the symptoms of musculoskeletal disorders?
- Can you analyze the prevalence rate of musculoskeletal disorders among dentists, dental hygienists and dental students?
- What are the factors that determine the prevalence of musculoskeletal pains among dental health workers? Which body parts are most affected by musculoskeletal pains?
- What are risk factors? Can you describe the risk factors associated with MSD in dentistry as a profession? How do the risk factors affect the professional work of dental health workers?
- Can you identify strategies for preventing musculoskeletal disorders? How effective are these strategies in eliminating musculoskeletal problems? Can you explain the negative effects of some of these strategies?
- In your opinion, what should stakeholders in dentistry do to eliminate musculoskeletal disorders?
- Which part of the body is highly likely to experience pain and discomfort? Do you believe the discomfort and pain are because of musculoskeletal disorders?
- What other effects do musculoskeletal disorders have on you apart from constant pain and discomfort?
- Do you believe musculoskeletal disorders have greater effect on the industry and your profession? What kind of measures would you propose to mitigate the problem?
- Have you been trained on issues related to musculoskeletal disorders? If yes, would you suggest any difference between your experience in practice and what you were trained?
- Are you aware of any danger associated with ergonomics? How would prevent such dangers?
- Is the prevention of musculoskeletal disorders part of your daily routine? What kind of activities do you engage in order to avoid musculoskeletal disorders?
- What measures have your organization put in place to avoid developing musculoskeletal disorders in workplace?
- Dou you believe a regulatory framework should be put in place to avoid musculoskeletal disorders within the workplace? Dou you believe musculoskeletal disorders is an occupational health issue?
- Would you suggest the kinds of actions that should be put in place to raise awareness of the dangers of musculoskeletal disorders among the health professionals? Do you believe the actions are efficient and cost effective?
- According to your understanding, what could be the specific remedial measures to prevent musculoskeletal disorders within the workplace? To what extent should the remedial measures be observed? Should these measures be limited to health professionals?
- What kind of diseases can you relate with musculoskeletal disorders? Explain the manner in which the diseases are prevented and treated? Are the intervention measures similar to musculoskeletal disorders?
- What is the current prevalence rate of musculoskeletal disorders among health professionals? Do you believe the rate is likely to decline or increase?
- Are health professionals doing enough to prevent musculoskeletal disorders in their occupations?
- What new methods of prevention and treatment could you suggest for musculoskeletal disorders?
- Do you believe work environment play a critical role in influencing the prevalence rate of musculoskeletal disorders among the health professionals particularly among dentists?