Ergonomics and dental hygiene: It's all in how you say it

Sometimes when you begin dental treatment, the patient will balk at having the operatory chair repositioned so far back. Judy Bendit, RDH, BS, offers a different perspective on how to make both you AND your patient more comfortable every time.

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Your next patient is waiting for you in the reception area. You go out to greet him (just using the male pronoun for ease of wording) and invite him into your operatory. You welcome him back, ask how he is feeling, ask about the family, and then you tell him to “Have a seat.” You then give the patient his preprocedural mouthwash to rinse for 30 seconds, review his medical/dental history, and then it’s time to position his seat to get started.

Many of you just push the button on the seat or floor pedal to recline the back of the patient chair. Typically you might say, “I’m going to put you back and get started.” Now, if you are the dentist, you may get this task accomplished with ease. But if you are the assistant or the hygienist, it’s a much different story. You meet with resistance when you get the patient back to the proper position. Usually you will hear something like “Stop! That’s too far. I can’t sit back like that.”

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In most situations we know patients can sit there (they all do it for the dentist!), but they just want to have some control over the situation and end up giving us a hard time. What ultimately happens is that you end up compromising and hurting yourself all day long ... day after day, week after week ... and you wonder why everything hurts!

Now, what would happen if all of us said something different? What if we said, “Now I am going to sit you back and get BOTH of us comfortable.” It’s a very different concept. All of a sudden your patient realizes that YOU need to be comfortable, too, in order to do your best. Think about that the next time you go to work!

Author bio
Judy Bendit, RDH, BS, was born and raised in a dental office and now has more than 40 years of experience in dentistry. She is a speaker, author, and clinician, and she serves on the faculty at Temple University School of Dentistry. She is an alumna board member at the University of Pennsylvania Dental School, an advisory board member at Harcum College, and a long-standing member of the American Dental Hygienists’ Association and a distinguished academy member of the Pennsylvania Dental Hygienists’ Association.

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