Ergonomics: If I’d Only Known

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Noun, plural in form but singular or plural in construction

er·go·nom·ics  \ ˌər-gə-ˈnä-miks \

An applied science concerned with designing and arranging things people use so that the people and things interact most efficiently and safely – called also biotechnology, human engineering, human factors.1

If Only I’d Known…

If only I’d know that this body would age,
If only I’d known that loupes were good for my stage.

If only I’d known that saddle chair would set me straight,
If only I’d known good posture could keep my spine from twisting into a crazy 8.

If only I’d know my best friend would be a chiropractor,
If only I’d known about the skeletal factor.

Please know that your body wants to be set straight,
Please know that your body can feel great.

Please know that you are worth that massage,
Please know that you can avoid that barrage.

Please know that you are not alone.

Now you know…

To use those loupes
To get that saddle chair
To keep straight and tall
And most of all…
To get that massage!

As hygienists, we are quite the focused bunch! We cannot leave a stone unturned and are compelled to morph our bodies into odd positions so that our eyes can better see that orifice called a mouth. Then, as we get older, all of those years of such intense focus take its toll. Oops, let’s morph our bodies even a little more to see all of those pearls in that orifice. We twist and reach for instruments, rheostats, and for a better view of the computer monitor. Sometimes it feels like being a character in the movie, “Matrix.”

Add to this, raising a family and time limitations which prevent us from going to that yoga class, putting in a flexibility DVD, taking the time for a massage, or even having the energy for a simple walk. We devote our bodies and time to our practice of patient care, which can take a hefty toll on our body if we do not protect it. It is insane and unhealthy, which contradicts what we are helping our patients to attain, health. Whole body health begins in the mouth, but perhaps we need to pay more attention to our own skeletal and muscular systems as well.

Preventive care starts with good ergonomics in the dental op. With the advanced technology offered in modern times, no one should be without a quality set of loupes or a saddle chair. Using a cordless or ergonomically-shaped handpiece alleviates the drag that a coiled cord poses to hands, wrists, and shoulders. Sharp instruments and a good ultrasonic or piezo unit should be available and set to use with each patient.

Take time to rearrange your operatory for a better line of sight, less reaching and twisting. Occasionally change it again, so the body does not get used to the same directional twist. No one wants to look like a fiddler crab with one big claw. And please ask your patient to reposition his/her head throughout the dental appointment for ease of access and visibility. Keep that chicken wing-shoulder lowered to avoid the need for physical therapy.

Go for a walk during your lunch, do some mindful and purposeful stretches between patients, get that yoga DVD going to help re-center yourself and strengthen your core. Setting your body right with proper ergonomics and exercise may add years to your career, or even your life. Also, please get that massage!

SEE ALSO: The Healthy Hygienist: How to Extend Your Career with a Few Simple Steps

DON’T MISS: How One Hygienist Became a Dental Hygiene Educator and Changed Her Career

Now Listen to the Today’s RDH Dental Hygiene Podcast Below:


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Rebecca Marie Friend, BS, RDH
Rebecca Marie Friend, RDH, BS, attained her Associate of Applied Science degree in Dental Hygiene from Ferris State University, Big Rapids, Michigan, in 1987, where she also met and married her husband. She has been a practicing dental hygienist for over 30 years and has raised three sons while working as a full-time clinical dental hygienist. Rebecca currently practices in Battle Creek, Michigan. She resides in neighboring historic Marshall, Michigan. Rebecca is board certified in Nitrous Oxide and Local Anesthesia Administration and is certified in low-level laser therapy. Continuously striving to improve upon her skills and methods of forward-thinking in the dental world, she recently attained her Bachelor of Science degree in Oral Health Promotion through Action Research at O’Hehir University. She is actively involved in a mentorship with students at O’Hehir University. “I take pride in my abilities as a skilled periodontal therapist. I enjoy the patient-practitioner relationship that develops when trust and health are gained, taking mindful care of every individual that I connect with. The benefits of helping others achieve a healthy mouth and regain their confidence with a great smile and healthier self are very rewarding. Whole-body health begins with the mouth.” In her free time, Rebecca enjoys visiting the beautiful shores of Lake Michigan, where the sunsets are magical, the dunes are stunning, and the rocks are a collector’s delight. She loves to immerse herself in nature whenever she gets a chance and enjoys canoeing, kayaking, nature walks, flexibility training, yoga, and little “get-a-ways” with her husband. Family life has always been important to her, and now that her three grown sons have spread their wings, she has a little more time to spread hers.