10 Incredibly Easy Steps to Assure a Long Healthy Career

Posted on July 17, 2017

Dental Hygiene Grads:

10 Incredibly Easy Steps to Take Now to Assure a Long Healthy Career

Congratulations recently licensed dental hygienists! Welcome to the wonderful world of disease prevention and periodontal therapy. Did you see the article published in April 2017 that listed dental hygiene as the number one most unhealthy job in America? Maybe not - you were in the middle of taking final exams and boards!

Being a dental hygienist may look like an easy job of sitting all day. This article helped bring to light some practices that are harmful in the long run. Unfortunately, it didn’t take in consideration the musculoskeletal (MSS) injuries that cause loss of function and irreversible damage. These injuries have caused hygienists to cut back on working hours or leave the field all together.

I know of older hygienists who have had cortisone shots or finger, hand, wrist, shoulder and even neck surgery to try to alleviate the pain. Some have been successful, others have not. Many more are on either OTC or prescription medication for pain control.

If you want to avoid MSS problems long before they have a chance to start, I offer these suggestions. There are many more but these are the easiest and most conservative:

1.     Wear the correct glove size. You should be able to make a fist without the glove stretching. Dental reps and companies will gladly give you samples for proper sizing.

2.     Use ultrasonic scalers to the fullest. Let the machine and instrument tip do the work. Checking tip wear is an important part of ultrasonic scaler effectiveness. If those parts wear out, they can be replaced more quickly and affordably than surgery!

3.     Assure you are using a modified pen grasp as you’re scaling. Let your wrist do the action, not your thumb and fingers.

4.     Do flexor and extensor exercises, as often as you can during the day to reverse the instrument grasping. Post a little note to remind you. Also, be careful what you are doing non-clinically that may contribute to additional wear and tear on your MSS.

5.     Use instruments that only need slight thumb and finger tightening, not the tight lateral pressure to pop the calculus off. American Eagle Instruments (AEI) XP Technology instruments only require a light exploratory stroke (similar to shaving). Invite an AEI Clinical Educator to your study club or an association meeting for a hands-on continuing education course.

6.     Make sure your instruments are sharp! Dull instruments mean you must work harder at removing tenacious deposits and risk burnishing the calculus, oh my! AEI XP instruments are sharpen-free and will maintain that ready to go cutting edge at least as long as stainless-steel instruments without time lost to sharpening.

7.     Have the correctly angled cutting edge on your instrument as it was designed to be used. Otherwise, you will contort yourself trying to find the “bite” of the edge you think is there somewhere. That’s repetitive and wasted time, plus more wear and tear on the MSS.

8.     Make sure your cords and hoses aren’t causing extra drag on your wrist. Use a cordless handpiece or the contra-angled Young Hygiene Handpiece. It rotates 360˚preventing hand and wrist fatigue.

9.     After your long day taking care of patients, take care of you with a 20 minute bath in Epsom salts. This will help to promote overall relaxation/stress relief, and prepare you for a good night’s rest.

10.  Know your value and speak up for yourself! If the above items aren’t in your office, you will have to ask. Do your homework by reading up on the benefits of the products and how they will enhance your production along with peak patient and self-care. There’s only one you.

Share this blog to reach grads and current students. They have a chance to prevent damage to the musculoskeletal system before pharmaceuticals or surgery is even a consideration. Taking steps now will help to prevent the more drastic and costly loss of time and income from surgery and weeks or months off from work. 

By: Michele LaBasi, RDH, BS, MEd