The impact of COVID-19 on dental healthcare workers is startling. The world is changed, and new PPE requirements are heavily impacting the day-to-day of dentists and hygienists everywhere. While our risk for contracting an infectious disease has always been high, now there are new risk factors to consider.
Each of us is hardwired to provide optimal clinical care. As healthcare providers that is simply who we are. There is no social distancing when it comes to doing a crown preparation or scaling a periodontally involved quadrant. Now more than ever, it’s critical to evaluate how to provide optimal clinical care with the least amount of stress to our bodies and minds.
Impact of new PPE requirements in the dental industry
Results from a 2020 study (1) about the impact of respiratory PPE reveals information of great concern. Four thousand dentists and dental hygienists reported a broad range of physical and emotional symptoms since adopting enhanced infection control measures:
- 63% experience mental fatigue
- 56% report exhaustion
- 25% suffer from muscle fatigue
- 28% describe difficulty in focusing
- 20% have decreased stamina
- 15% experience eye strain.
Since returning to work, 71% report an increase in symptoms. While specific PPE measures may change, the impact on clinical care and our bodies is here to stay.
Try this quick posture test
If your ear is positioned over your shoulder, your head is in a neutral position, however our work requires clinicians position their upper body in a more forward position. While ergonomists encourage freedom of movement, it is important to limit flexing and bending to no more than 30 degrees from neutral, and it is much safer to have a slight bend in the hip joint than moving your head forward or flexing your neck to view the clinical field. Loupes that are correctly manufactured support safe positioning. A healthy cervical curve in the neck enhances spinal health.
How to minimize impact on your posture?
Devices that increase safety and support wellness are more important than ever. Properly fitted loupes made from custom measurements will allow clinicians to maintain an erect torso. This also minimizes neck flexion and reduces ‘forward head’ posture, both of which are known to create significant muscle fatigue.
Headlights eliminate dangerous reaching. Clinicians can concentrate on the task at hand, rather than wasting precious time adjusting overhead lights to get adequate illumination of the clinical field. Loupe-mounted headlights automatically follow the user’s line of sight.
Clinicians who use auxiliary headlights often remark how a single, focused beam – clear from edge-to-edge – is one of the best equipment decisions they ever made. They can’t imagine working without precision optics coupled with proper lighting.