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You are sitting on a time bomb

Positioning yourself correctly when operating on a patient is more important than you think. Martyn Amsel highlights the consequences of a bad posture

The problem all starts at dental school where students often don’t work with a trained nurse and the equipment is standardised in its layout in the clinic. This in turn leads to a mindset of designing surgeries around the room and equipment rather than around the human body and its natural movements.

Poor posture and bad habits will account for about 65% of all dental workers in the UK suffering from some form of Musculo-Skeletal Disorder in their lifetime.

About the data

The data is based on a population of 5,570 Dentists who received financial benefit from their income protection plan held with Wesleyan Assurance Society.  It includes an analysis of claims that ended between January 2002 and May 2012 (inclusive).  The earliest recorded start date for a claim in the population was 6 December 1975.

In this analysis we intentionally do not distinguish between male and female Dentists.

At what age did Dentists start to receive income protections benefit?

Income protection benefit is generally paid when a Dentist is incapacitated and unable to perform their role as a Dentist.  Here we can see that just 15% of Dentists start to receive income protection benefits before the age of 30.  This rises to 63% of Dentists who start to receive benefits between the ages 40 to 54.



What were the most common recorded causes of incapacity?

The ‘Other’ other category is comprised of conditions that, on their own, would comprise perhaps 1-2% of the total population, so we tend not to isolate this into separate categories.  They also include combinations of conditions that a Dentist may report from the seven other categories.

Looking beyond the ‘Other’ category, around two-thirds of all claims can be filed under seven generic classifications.  You can see that musculoskeletal is by far the most clearly defined recorded cause of incapacity, accounting for over one in four claims.


At what age did Dentists start to receive income protection benefit when Musculoskeletal is the recorded cause of incapacity?

Only 5% of Dentists under age 40 start to receive
benefits when the cause of incapacity is recorded as Musculoskeletal.  As
can be seen, this rises rapidly when Dentists reach their forties and through
their fifties.



How long are benefits paid for claims overall?

From the adjacent table we can see that the vast majority (86%) of Dentists receive income protection benefits for less than 12 months.  We can conclude that most people therefore do recover from incapacity and are fit enough to return to work within 12 months.  However, the data is slightly skewed by the fact we have included some types of protection cover that pay benefits for a maximum period of 12 months.  So in some cases, benefits may have stopped but the Dentist continued to be incapacitated.

If we consider the population as a whole, income protection benefits are paid for 1 year and 3 months on average.


How long are benefits paid when Musculoskeletal is the cause of incapacity?

As can be seen, compared to the overall picture, a higher percentage of Dentists receive income protection benefits for longer than one year when the recorded reason for incapacity is Musculoskeletal.  Taking the ‘Musculoskeletal’ population overall, income protection benefits are
paid for around 1 year and 8 months on average.

This is a stark warning for ALL dental workers as MSD will be a temporary halt for some, but for others it will be permanent.


This is the time bomb

It seems obvious to me that we should be trying to prevent the inevitable suffering caused by MSD and the severe loss of income it
will bring to those who it affects.

We should be paying far more attention to:

  • The ergonomicdesign of our surgeries
  • The type of stool we are sitting on to perform operative dentistry
  • The correct seated position for dentist, nurse and patient
  • The better use of our nurses where that extra hand can make all the difference
  • Using better motion economy when working on patients
  • Encouraging younger dentists to use loupes

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