Solving Work Related Pain in Dentistry

3 Keys to Eliminating Neck Pain in Dentistry

-Dr. Bethany Valachi-

Up to 80% of dentists & hygienists report neck pain in a 12 month period, and if untreated, can lead to disability or early retirement.  Intervention to prevent neck pain in dentistry should be evidence-based and unbiased.  My doctorate studies focused on preventing neck pain among dental professionals, so I am quite passionate about this topic (and a bit of a nerd).  There are numerous interventions to prevent neck pain in dentistry, but here are my top 3 interventions that research shows to be most effective in the battle against neck pain in dentistry.

  1. Good declination angle Since bending the neck forward greater than 20 degrees while working is significantly associated with neck pain, loupes with an excellent declination angle are your first and foremost ergonomic safeguard against neck pain.  I have found that only 20% or so of loupes on the market have a steep enough declination angle to keep operators within this safe head posture.  There is only one style of loupe on the market that consistently keeps operators within a safe head posture.  Learn which loupes prevent neck pain, what to ask for when ordering loupes and how to modify your TTL loupes.  Find out how in Dr. Valachi’s video course:  “Dentistry Shouldn’t be a Pain in the Neck”. 


2. Train your deep cervical flexors . Many team members perform an exercise called the Chin Tuck incorrectly, and are actually making the imbalance between their deep cervical flexors and the SCM/scalenes WORSE.  This imbalance is one of the primary perpetuators of neck pain in dentistry.  Due to repeated flexing of the neck forward to look into your patient’s mouth, the primary postural muscle of the neck (deep cervical flexors-DCF) become weaker and weaker, while the more superficial muscles (SCM & scalenes) try to substitute as postural muscles and become stronger and stronger. Dr. Valachi teaches the single best exercise to resolve neck pain in her video course, “Dentistry Shouldn’t be a Pain in the Neck”. 


3.  Self-treat your trigger points.  Dental professionals are prone to 7 key trigger points that cause pain.  One of these is the upper trapezius muscle, which is the most active muscle when delivery dental care.  Trigger points commonly develop in this muscle that can refer a headache behind the eye and neck pain.  You can self-treat these painful trigger points yourself with Dr. Valachi’s self-treatment protocol in her online course.

This is just the tip of the iceberg!  Other important strategies to eliminate neck pain include:

  • Correct type of sleeping pillow
  • Incorrect exercise
  • Arm support
  • Finger fulcrums
  • Proper position of the patient
  • Control of the occlusal plane to preserve optimal working posture
  • Correct height of patient
  • Correct therapy by qualified healthcare professional 
  • Proper clock position for the quadrant or tooth surface.  




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