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SADJ. 2009 Oct;64(9):400-3.

Musculoskeletal disorders amongst practising South African oral hygienists.

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Department of Community Dentistry, School of Dentistry, University of Pretoria.



The study sought to determine the level of musculoskeletal disorders among working oral hygienists in South Africa and potential determinants that are associated with these disorders.


Oral hygienists registered with the HPCSA were requested to complete an anonymous questionnaire. Apart from demographic information they were asked to report on any musculoskeletal symptoms experienced in the hands, neck, shoulders and lower back as well as details of workload, types of scaling procedures, size of instruments, the mobility of the operator's chair and the adjustability of patient chairs.


Of the 362 respondents, 61.3%, 66.5%, 56.6% and 59.6%, experienced hand, neck, shoulder and lower back symptoms respectively. Twenty-eight percent of the respondents performed hand-scaling for more than four hours per day. Twenty-six percent reported immobile operator chairs, while 12.6% reported patient chairs that were difficult to adjust. Employing multivariate analysis, excessive hand scaling was associated with hand and shoulder symptoms, while immobile operator's chairs and poorly adjustable patient chairs were respectively associated with neck and lower back problems.


The prevalence of work-related musculoskeletal disorders in practising oral hygienists in South Africa appears to be similar to that in developed countries. Significant determinants of musculoskeletal disorders may be immobile operator stools, poorly adjustable patient chairs and excessive hand-scaling daily.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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