The Dentist Chair and Back pain

Back injuries have repeatedly been found to be one of the most common work related health problems leading to sickness absences. Compared to other professionals, dentists have a higher incidence of back pain. Indeed, research has shown that approximately 40% of dentists experience some form of back and/or neck pain.

Whilst most episodes of back pain clear up relatively quickly, some dentists will get persistent back pain that can eventually require them to reduce their work hours and in the worst case scenario lead to early retirement.
Without doubt the best way to tackle back pain is to stop the problem happening in the first place. Therefore, the aim of this article is to outline key factors to consider when buying a dentist chair.

Invest in your dentist chair: Faced with all the expenses of setting up as a dentist, it is not surprising that some dentists simply opt for the cheapest dentist chair on the market. Unfortunately, this can be a false economy, because if you don’t get an ergonomically designed chair that helps promote good spinal alignment you may increase your risk of developing an injury. It is worth remembering that your spine needs to serve you for your career and so you need to make sure you look after it from day one.

Consider upper limb supports for your dentist chair
: Because dentists need to access the mouth they often have to hold their upper limbs in sustained postures whilst performing precision activities. As a result, certain muscles which control the upper limb muscles (eg the trapezius) have to work hard for prolonged periods of time. Increasingly, dentist chairs are being developed with arm supports that allow you to rest the arms during certain upper limb activities. Some arm supports are moveable which gives you even more flexibility with your arm position.

Consider a dentist chair with wheels: As a dentist it is very important that you are able to get close enough to your patient in order that you don’t have to get in an awkward position during dental procedures. A dentist chair with wheels not only allows you to get close to the patient but also gives you the flexibility to move around your work station during the day.

Consider Saddle seats for your Dentist Chair: Traditionally, healthcare professionals have sat on flat seats or stools. In the last 15 years, however, the development of the saddle chair has completely changed the way that dentists can sit. As the name suggests, saddle chairs have been made in the shape of the saddle. They have been designed in this way to help promote an upright posture without the need of a back rest. By removing the back support, saddle chairs have also been designed to help you build the stability in the muscles around your trunk so you are not reliant on any external supports. One of the most popular types of saddle chairs available is the Salli saddle chair.

Consider a split seat on your dentist chair: Over the years there has been growing research to suggest that prolonged sitting on narrow seats may put pressure on the genital area leading to numbness and a compromised blood supply. For this reason, some of the newer types of dentist chair such as the Salli saddle chairs have been designed with a split saddle which leaves space between each side of the chair for the genitalia.
Make sure your dentist chair is height adjustable: The height of your chair in relation to the patient will directly influence the type of posture you move into during the day. It is very important, therefore, that you are able to adjust the height of the chair either with a hand lever or a foot lever.

Make sure your dentist chair has a forward lean capability: Dental health workers have to operate in a position that requires some forward lean. It can be very useful therefore to have a seat that can be tilted forwards and backwards. Moving the chair forwards will help you maintain the natural backwards arch in your lower spine (lumbar arch) whilst working and therefore keep you in a better spinal alignment.

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