Cheers to a successful 2016! You welcomed numerous new patients to your practice, performed countless restorations, and feel great about the beautiful smiles you’ve created. There’s no arguing that dentistry is an admirable profession that changes peoples’ lives for the better. But, as you (and your back) probably know, it is also a demanding one. The reality is the mental and physical challenges of dentistry can take their toll. Carpal tunnel syndrome, chronic back problems, hypertension…we’ll stop, but you get the point. The good news is you don’t need to suffer to do your job!
There’s no time like the new year to “ring in” a new workplace health strategy. This doesn’t mean you have to change everything about the way you work – a few steps in the right direction can make a huge difference. Here are five easy things dentists can do to experience a healthier, happier, and more successful 2017.
1. Taking Breaks
It’s easy to get caught up in the daily grind of dental checkups. Before you know it, you’ve skipped lunch and are starting to feel completely drained. The fact is our bodies NEED breaks – they allow us to step away, recharge, and de-stress. Try setting a timer or an alarm to remind yourself to take breaks every few hours. An inviting, stress-free break room is a welcome addition in every dental practice! Need staff lounge design ideas? We can help with that.
2. Practicing Proper Positioning
Spend time learning optimal positioning techniques for your patients and yourself. It’s time to start protecting your most valuable possession: YOUR BODY. Proper posture includes using loupes to decrease the amount of forward head flexion, avoiding repetitive or prolonged twisting at the waist, and equipping your practice with comfortable chairs and ergonomic stools. By learning proper positioning techniques, you will improve your body’s muscle activation and reduce your risk for pain.
3. Chairside Stretching
Although proper positioning and loupes can reduce pain, the real key to injury prevention lies in stretching. Research suggests that frequent stretching breaks are fundamental to effective injury prevention and pain control. Not only can a simple stretch increase blood flow to your muscles, it maintains normal joint range of motion, increases nutrient supply to vertebral discs, and creates a relaxation response in the central nervous system. If you’ve been experiencing consistent hand fatigue, try using an Ultrasonic scaler more frequently for cleanings. Don’t wait for a painful episode to start implementing these strategies – the time is now!
4. Managing Stress
As a dentist, not only are you required to be an expert in the latest dental procedures, you are responsible for the smooth and seamless management of your practice. No wonder dentistry is considered one of the most stressful health professions! Why not hand off a few keep-you-up-at-night responsibilities to a practice management system? Many software solutions can help with everything from sending patient appointment reminders to giving proper post-op instructions. Enjoy some well-deserved peace of mind! Other stress management strategies you can try include breathing exercises, guided visualization, good nutrition, and setting time aside to do the things you love.
5. Getting Active
At the office many of us are sedentary for hours, resulting in tight, sore muscles. Research also shows that too much time sitting can take years off of your life. Luckily, it’s easy to counteract the negative effects by simply moving more and taking a minute or two to stretch throughout the day. When not at the office, find activities that you enjoy and do them as much as you can. Feel like you’re too short-staffed to be able to take an exercise break? Find some help here!
The truth is, before you can take care of your patients, you need to take care of YOU. What plans do you have for making 2017 your practice’s healthiest year yet? Please share in the comments below! *Cheers* to a healthy New Year.