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Five minutes to a pain-free practice

July 1, 2010
The majority of dentists and hygienists working in the dental field experience some type of physical discomfort or injury.

By Steve Satin

For more on this topic, go to and search using the following key words: pain-free practice, Satin Wellness, 5 in 5, physical discomfort, injury, Steve Satin.

The majority of dentists and hygienists working in the dental field experience some type of physical discomfort or injury. Research shows that 82.7% of dental professionals reported at least one symptom of musculoskeletal disease in the past 12 months. (Baltic Dental and Maxillofacial Journal, 2007 Volume 9, No. 1) Whether it’s issues with the neck, shoulders, middle back, lower back, elbows, forearms, wrists, or fingers, the dental field is a high-risk profession, and taking charge now can change one’s day-to-day well-being.

Most dental professionals try to bear the pain, make minor adjustments, or simply accept that they have a job hazard they must deal with.

You may be wondering:

  • Is there a simple solution?
  • Is it the chairs I sit on?
  • Is it the instruments I use everyday?
  • Could it be the angle of the light on the dental pole?

In fact, it is not any single issue. The root cause is the overuse of muscles and tendons every day while you work, and not the equipment. Who would have thought that just like any other endeavor, the stronger and healthier you are, the easier your task becomes? Did you ever think there would be a need to develop an exercise program exclusively for hygienists?

It’s critical that whatever program you consider, it should be specific to your needs and the demands you place on your body.

Proven track record

Our clients who practice dentistry have said many times, “I want to make sure my practice does not debilitate me as it has so many others I know.”

Fifteen years ago, a dentist who was a client of Satin Wellness was diagnosed with spinal stenosis. He and his orthopedic surgeon asked us to develop an exercise program specifically for him to alleviate his pain. The combination of his back condition and the requirements on his body as a dentist caused us to step back and design a highly customized program. Because of his positive results, the dentist asked us to expand the program to include his hygienists, who had similar complaints.

Through this experience we developed a proven system for dentists and hygienists to alleviate and prevent pain.

As a dental hygienist, you have two major challenges — postural issues and repetitive motion injuries. As a quick reminder, let’s think of your body posture at work and the repetitive nature of the profession:

  • Neck flexion — consistent forward head bend and rotation
  • Shoulder blade protraction — rounding of your shoulders
  • Shoulder rotation — repetitive shoulder rotation
  • Trunk flexion and rotation — reoccurring forward bending and turning
  • Elbow/wrist/finger flexion and extension — repetitive elbow, wrist, and finger flexion and extension

You may not know that strength and flexibility are the two keys to proper posture and strong bones. Since muscles attach to bones by way of tendons, the stronger and more flexible the attachment, the easier the muscles and bones move.

We developed five exercises to address each of the five areas that affect those in the dental profession. They can be done in five minutes. “5 in 5” is five simple exercises that can help reverse the physical toll the practice of dentistry can cause due to repetitive motion, as well as postural injuries.

Knowing the time challenges of most professionals today, these exercises are designed to be completed in just five minutes. See the photos and descriptions on the left.

Steve Satin, exercise physiologist, is the founder and owner of Satin Wellness. Satin speaks to help dental professionals develop proper habits. For more information on “5 in 5,” go to You may reach him at [email protected].

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