Article by Stephanie Botts, RDH, BSDH, CEAS
Picture a hygienist using their power scaler with no assistance, trying to scale and suction themselves. Or an assistant placing fillings alone. Or a dentist prepping a tooth for a crown while their assistant helps answer phones up front. Sound familiar?
Most dental clinicians will agree that working in dentistry is challenging. Numerous stressors placed on us have only intensified since the onset of the pandemic. Due to the mass exodus of clinicians out of the field, those who are remaining are working harder than ever. Many of us have gotten accustomed to working alone. Add that to the stress of simply working through a pandemic and it’s even more challenging to maintain our ergonomics, especially when we’re also trying to provide comfortable and effective suction for our patients.
Ergonomics can be simply defined as our bodies’ foundation when practicing dentistry. When we lose our posture and ergonomics, we are setting ourselves up for injuries, missed work, and even early retirement and disability. But how can we focus on ourselves when we’ve got a packed schedule and work alone?
When forced to work alone and provide effective suction without the proper tools to help us, we are prone to reaching, leaning, twisting, using excessive pinch force, and more! The list goes on and on. Therefore, it is crucial to have a system that will provide adequate suction, be comfortable for the patient, and, most importantly, be hands-free.
Proper ergonomics suggest using indirect vision to maintain proper posture. However, we can’t do that if we hold onto the saliva ejector or the HVE. Luckily, there are people, companies, and products to help. Let’s take a closer look at each of these three categories.
Did you know some ergonomic coaches specialize in helping dental professionals? I am a practicing dental hygienist and an ergonomics coach for all dental team members. I have developed a system for identifying each clinician’s individual risk factors and ways to reduce them. Coaches like me look at all aspects of the clinician and their operatory and then coach each client based on their specific needs.
From behavior modification and habit change to reorganizing the operatory to suggesting different equipment, I look at all aspects of a clinician’s practice. Contrary to what some think, you do NOT have to go out and spend a large amount of money on fancy equipment to improve your ergonomics. Sometimes, it’s just about realizing where your body is in space and knowing what movements are “safe” and “unsafe.”
Here’s an example: A common habit I see all the time is the clinician holding their instruments or materials in one hand while the other holds onto the suction. This is problematic for several reasons. One, the clinician cannot use indirect vision when holding onto the suction, causing them to lean or hunch to see various areas of the mouth. Two, the force required to hold onto the suction (not to mention retracting with it as well) causes pressure to build up in the carpal tunnel and causes fatigue and microtrauma to the muscles in the forearm, elbow, shoulder, and neck. This damage can lead to carpal tunnel syndrome, bursitis, rotator cuff injuries, and tennis elbow, just to name a few. But, for the most part, these injuries are preventable! So how do we fix this? Hands-free suction!
Many dental companies offer dental professionals ergonomic solutions to make our jobs easier. One of these companies is Zirc Dental Products. They are a family-run business heavily invested in supporting dental professionals. They have many products designed to help us, from their Crystal HD mirrors, their suction/isolation options, to their innovative Color Method organizational system.
Zirc has several products I regularly recommend to my clients. A couple of my favorites for hands-free suction options are Mr. Thirsty One-Step and the Pink Petal.
Mr. Thirsty® One-Step:
Mr. Thirsty® One-Step provides comfortable isolation and retraction while you work. It’s easily customizable if the patient has tori or is a gagger (you can trim the sides down to make it more functional for you without compromising the suctioning power). Have you noticed that with these devices, sometimes it’s a lot of weight for the patient because the HVE valve and tubing are so heavy? Zirc makes a Comfort Kit, which is much lighter than traditional tubing. Mr.Thirsty® also has a built-in bite block that helps with patient comfort. The bite block allows for full visibility of each side at a time, so you don’t have to keep adjusting/repositioning it. Mr. Thirsty® hooks directly into ANY HVE, so there’s no need for extra attachments. It’s disposable, which limits the risk of cross-contamination, and it saves you time.
Zirc also has a product called Pink Petal™, a very simple attachment placed onto the saliva ejector that would provide hands-free suction and is comfortable for the patient. No more saliva ejector causing tissue trauma to the buccal tissue or constantly having to reposition it while working, reducing repetitive, unnecessary movements from us.
Working in the dental field can be challenging, but innovative solutions like those offered by Zirc Dental Products can help make it easier. Now more than ever, it’s essential to focus on our ergonomics and well-being, so we can be fully present with our patients and offer the high level of quality care we are so passionate about.
To learn more about Zirc’s ergonomic products, visit zirc.com.
To learn more about Stephanie or get started with
ergonomics coaching visit posturepros.net.
Stephanie Botts, RDH, BSDH, CEAS has been a clinical dental hygienist for over 13 years. She founded PosturePros, her ergonomic coaching business for dental professionals, to assist those in the dental field with ergonomics. She understands the demands practicing dentistry has and is passionate about the health and well-being of those working in this field. Her goal is to help practitioners practice safely and more comfortably while reducing the risks of early retirement and disability. She is here for YOU!
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