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Musculoskeletal issues common among dentists: study

Photo: Vesnaandjic/iStrockphoto

Munster, Germany — Neck and shoulder problems are common musculoskeletal disorders among dentists, leading more than 1 out of 5 to seek medical care, a recent study out of Germany shows.

Researchers from Munster University Hospital surveyed 229 dentists in the state of North Rhine-Westphalia, who answered questions about any occurrence of musculoskeletal symptoms over the past 12 months that led to sick leave or medical care.

The vast majority of the dentists (93%) reported having experienced at least one musculoskeletal symptom, with the neck (65%) and shoulders (58%) being the most common areas affected. The researchers note that dentists regularly work in uncomfortable static postures and keep their head in a rotated position, with the neck flexed and shoulders abducted.

Of the dentists who reported neck pain, 24% said they sought medical treatment and 16% indicated the issue limited their daily activities. For dentists who experienced shoulder pain, those percentages were 21 and 15, respectively.


Other findings:

  • Acute pain in the previous seven days was experienced most often in the neck (37%), shoulders (29%) and upper back (23%).
  • Compared with their male counterparts, female dentists showed higher prevalence for musculoskeletal issues in the neck (84% vs. 53%), shoulder (73% vs. 49%) and upper back (62% vs. 41%).

The researchers recommend good ergonomic design of the dental workplace to reduce awkward postures, along with training on ergonomics, workplace organization and occupational health. In addition, muscle strengthening programs for the neck and shoulders/arms should be developed.

The study was published online Sept. 11 in the journal Risk Management and Healthcare Policy.

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