Objectives To describe the prevalence and risk factors of musculoskeletal disorders among dental practitioners.
Method In 2012, 965 dental practitioners attending the American Dental Association Annual Session filled out surveys on individual characteristics and symptoms, then were clinically examined using the McKenzie evaluation method. Chi-square tests and linear regression were used to statistically compare associations between dental practitioner characteristics with musculoskeletal complaints.
Results 76.0% of practitioners regularly experienced pain, tingling, or numbness in their fingers, wrists, hands, forearms, shoulders, neck, back and chest during or at the end of a workday. Repetitive action during work was the most commonly reported origin of symptoms, reported in 37.9% of cases. 68.3% of practitioners reported that symptoms had prevented them from working. Symptoms located in the back were the most common, reported by 51.2%. Location of symptoms was not related to gender, dominant hand, or age, but was related to specialty: dental hygienists and endodontists had significantly higher rates of back and hand symptoms than those in other dental fields (Chi-square p-values: 0.02, 0.002).
Years spent in practice was a significant predictor of the degree of symptoms (all F-test p-values <0.05). Equipment used during the workday affected complaints: magnifier use was associated with increased musculoskeletal symptoms, as were different operator chair types. Other significant predictors were exercising or stretching during the workday and self-reported working posture (Chi-square p-values: 0.002, 0.002).
Conclusions The dental profession experiences a high rate of musculoskeletal complaints. Ergonomic and educational interventions can prevent musculoskeletal complaints, and are clearly necessary for dental practitioners.