Solving Work Related Pain in Dentistry

How Proper Positioning Improves Your Posture in Dentistry

-Dr. Bethany Valachi-

One of the primary reasons I see my students and clinicians contorting over the patient is due to poor control of the occlusal plane when treating the upper arch.  This is Step 3 of my 10-Step Patient Positioning Sequence, and one of the most important concepts in dental ergonomics:  when the occlusal plane of the upper arch is in front of the vertical, it pulls the dentist into a forward-leaning posture. 

To maintain optimal posture, the occlusal plane of the upper arch must be 20-25 degrees behind the vertical.  This is most easily achieved with a double articulating headrest, however most dentists and hygienists do not angle the double articulating headrest steeply downward for risk of causing the patient discomfort.  Many of these headrests are not sufficiently cushioned on the edge and can cut into the patient’s occiput.

The secret to getting the patient to tolerate positioning the occlusal plane behind the vertical is patient comfort.  Once the patient is comfortable, they will tolerate a

surprising amount of reclining without objection!  The key product to do this is a special dental ergonomic headrest cushion that is ideal for use with double articulating headrests.  Many are familiar with the larger headrest cushions that have been around for years, however they are too large to use on most double articulating headrests, especially when treating the upper arch.


In Dr. Valachi’s CE Video Course, Positioning for Success in Dentistry, you’ll learn all 10 Steps of Dr. Valachi’s Patient Positioning Sequence to preserve your optimal posture in the operatory:

  • Dental stool selection & adjustment
  • Degree of recline of patient chair
  • Height of patient chair
  • Headrest adjustment (flat vs. double articulating headrest require very different patient positioning)
  • Clock position depending on the tooth surface
  • Light position
  • Fulcrums

Positioning for Success in Dentistry CE Course


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