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J Am Dent Assoc. 2001 Feb;132(2):163-70; quiz 223-4.

Prevalence of carpal tunnel syndrome and median mononeuropathy among dentists.

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  • 1Department of Environmental Health Sciences, School of Public Health, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor.



The authors undertook a study to determine the prevalence in dentists of abnormal sensory nerve conduction and/or symptoms of carpal tunnel syndrome, or CTS, the most common nerve entrapment syndrome.


In a cross-sectional study, dentists (n = 1,079) were screened during the American Dental Association's Annual Health Screening Program in 1997 and 1998 by means of standard electrodiagnostic measures in the dominant hand and a self-reported symptom questionnaire. The authors diagnosed a median mononeuropathy from a 0.5- or 0.8-millisecond, or ms, prolongation of the median sensory-evoked peak latency compared to the ulnar latency. They diagnosed CTS if the subject also had accompanying symptoms of numbness, tingling or pain.


Thirteen percent of screened dentists were diagnosed with a median mononeuropathy (using a 0.5-ms prolongation as the criterion), but only 32 percent of these had symptoms consistent with CTS (4.8 percent overall). When the 0.8-ms prolongation was used as the electrodiagnostic criterion, only 2.9 percent (overall) were diagnosed with CTS. People with diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis and obesity were more likely to have a median mononeuropathy.


The prevalence of symptoms consistent with CTS in the dominant hand among dentists was higher than the prevalence in the general population. However, when electrodiagnostic confirmation is added, the prevalence of CTS was nearly the same as that among the general population.


Early recognition of CTS can lead to more effective management. Education regarding ergonomic risk factors can be an effective preventive measure.

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