Listening to your body: Ergonomics course aims to prevent occupational discomfort

Nov. 20, 2015
Ergonomics course aims to prevent occupational discomfort


Many dental professionals exert their bodies during patient care in ways that are nonergonomic or detrimental to their musculoskeletal health. Proper positioning is critical to the success and longevity of one's career. Due to many years of misalignment during practice, Francine Luizzi-Bench, RDH, MS, and Elise Mueller, RDH, shared common physical complaints that are experienced by other dental professionals.

Neither one wanted to blame dental hygiene for their problems, but they knew they needed help. Francine had interests in sewing, furniture restoration, gardening, and exercising, and Elise noticed her imbalances were reduced when she stopped working full-time after the birth of her daughter. From their experiences, they developed a program titled, "Your Body Is Talking ... Are You Listening?" to address many of the issues related to the ergonomic challenges faced by dental professionals.

Their program is research based with active learning exercises that allow participants to discover practical and enjoyable strategies for preventing and managing occupational discomfort. Strategies using dental technology, equipment, proper operatory positioning, and yoga poses and stretches are used to enhance the practice and patient experience without sacrificing proper alignment. A 45-minute yoga session that is appropriate for all fitness levels is included in the program.

Goals of the program include:

• Describing cumulative stress disorders and musculoskeletal disorders that affect dental professionals

• Evaluating dental equipment and enhanced instrument design that may improve musculoskeletal health for practitioners and periodontal debridement for patients

• Incorporating improved ergonomics and yoga moves into daily life and practice

• Reviewing patient positioning to achieve ergonomic comfort and efficiency for patients and operators

• Using magnification to improve patient treatment outcomes and operator positioning

Francine's journey began during years of clinical practice. She occasionally had physical complaints but noticed they were not solely from hygiene since her outside activities were also hand- and positioning-intensive. She had never been incapacitated or unable to work, but she did experience intermittent early morning tingling in her fingers as a result of carpal tunnel syndrome. Her issues were mild and treatable with noninvasive treatments such as splints, physical therapy, and smart habit modifications. She had danced as a child and began exercising in her early 20s.

Elise, on the other hand, noticed that the imbalances she had experienced from years of clinical hygiene subsided when she left full-time practice after the birth of her daughter. She had always exercised and danced regularly, but it wasn't until she started practicing yoga that her body felt better and the imbalances improved. She became group fitness certified in yoga and American Counsel of Exercise (ACE) in 2004. She enjoyed hygiene and decided that creating a course would combine her interests with her love of hygiene and yoga to improve the lives and careers of other dental professionals. Francine and Elise both wanted to create an enjoyable course that was scientifically-based and would enhance the careers and lives of others.

Francine is a graduate of the Forsyth School for Dental Hygienists (now Massachusetts College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences) and received her bachelor's degree from Columbia University and master's degree from Central Connecticut State University. She is an alumnus of the Academy of Academic Leadership, an ADA EBD Champion, and a member of OSAP. She has taught in several dental hygiene programs and has extensive clinical experience in periodontal and general practices. She is currently an associate professor at the Community College of Rhode Island where she teaches local anesthesia, dental hygiene clinical courses, and oral embryology/histology.

Francine is also the infection control officer for the dental hygiene department at CCRI and the college's continuing education department. Additionally, she is an adjunct faculty member at Rhode Island College's bachelor of dental hygiene degree completion program where she teaches evidence-based decision making for dental hygienists through an articulation agreement with CCRI. Her interest in presenting CE courses developed as a result of the mentorship provided by her coworkers at CCRI. Francine is a member of ADHA because she feels it is important to protect the hygiene profession and education. She describes herself as dedicated, passionate, and fun loving, and if she were not a hygienist she envisions herself as a detective or in the CIA. She enjoys hearing about her audience's experiences regarding physical and ergonomic issues, and loves to help solve these problems. She pursued a dental hygiene career as a result of her mother's encouragement even though her guidance counselor didn't think it was a good idea. But it has definitely turned out fine!

Elise received her dental hygiene associate's degree from Middlesex Community College in Massachusetts and has practiced clinically for a number of years. She enjoys spending time with her family, health and fitness, gardening, and home improvements. If she were not a hygienist she could see herself as an interior decorator or nutritionist. Elise describes herself as creative, compassionate, and tenacious. She is also an ADHA member concerned with the advancement and protection of the profession. She has always loved science and her guidance counselor encouraged her to investigate dental hygiene.

Elise loves sharing her knowledge of yoga with other dental professionals, and loves to see the decreased stress in their faces and bodies at the end of a yoga session.

Francine and Elise have made it their mission to enhance the lives and practices of dental professionals while improving patient care and treatment. The practice of dental hygiene does not have to hurt! Using proper equipment, positioning, and fitness skills allows dental hygienists many years of long and productive practice.

For more information regarding Elise and Francine and their program, contact [email protected].

Thought for the month:

It is health that is the real wealth and not pieces of gold and silver. - Mahatma Gandhi RDH

Medical errors in dentistry

The INeedCE course for November is "Medical Errors in Dentistry." RDH readers will receive a 50% discount off the regularly priced course of $59 ($29.50) using discount code AM1115. Discount is good through Dec. 24, 2015.

Medical errors leading to adverse events can occur in dentistry. The literature indicates that such errors broadly include errors related to the prescription of medication, errors based on:

• Neglecting current scientific evidence regarding treatment

• Treatment or associated with improper maintenance of equipment

• Failure to properly maintain patient records

• Failure to acquire informed consent

• Failure to establish and maintain appropriate infection control measures

• Failure to properly diagnose

• Failure to prevent accidents or complications associated with care or pursue appropriate follow-up care when they occur

• Failure to follow authoritative dictates reflecting current standard of care or practice rules or regulations established by individual state laws.

This course reviews the most common medical errors likely to occur in the practice of dentistry.

ANN-MARIE C. DEPALMA, RDH, MEd, FADIA, FAADH, is a Fellow of the American Academy of Dental Hygiene and the Association of Dental Implant Auxiliaries, as well as a continuous member of ADHA. She presents continuing education programs for dental team members on a variety of topics. Ann-Marie is collaborating with several authors on various books for dental hygiene and can be reached at [email protected].