The prevalence of musculoskeletal disorders among dentists in KwaZulu- Natal
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Occupational hazards are common among many professions and dentistry is no exception. Occupational hazards include percutaneous injuries, inhalation of noxious chemicals, noise and musculoskeletal disorders (MSD). Despite the fact that MSD have been documented to be very prevalent among dentists in various countries, there is a paucity of literature from South Africa. Aim The aim of the present study was to determine the prevalence of musculoskeletal disorders among the dentists in KwaZulu-Natal (KZN), South Africa and to identify risk factors associated with it. The study was a cross-sectional, descriptive one and questionnaires were used to elicit information regarding socio-demographic details, medical history, work history and work-related posture information from dentists based in KwaZulu-Natal. A convenience sample of all qualified dentists in this region who were registered members of the South African Dental Association (SADA) was used. Results One hundred and nine dentists responded to the questionnaire. The response rate was 31%. The majority were male; a third aged between 30 - 39 years and the ratio of females to males was 1:3. Almost all the dentists reported pain in the neck, lower back and shoulder. Less than a quarter of the dentists in KZN reported hand pain, numbness in the hands and a tingling sensation in the hands. More than three quarters reported that they had no negative effects when performing restorative work and scaling and polishing, but 3.1% reported having extreme levels of pain. The most common working position reported was the 2 0' clock position. Nearly three quarters rotated their necks while performing clinical dentistry and a third tilted their shoulders towards their dominant hand. There was no relationship between Body Mass Index (BMI) and whether respondents treated patients while seated or standing and neither was there a relationship between pain in the lower back and BMI. There was a strong association between pain in the neck while performing clinical work and the number of years in practice confounded by age. When compared to other countries the prevalence of MSD is very high. The highest occurrence was for neck, back and shoulder pain. Avoiding these injuries is critical and self-recognition is important in either preventing further injuries or in increasing severity of the condition. The findings of this study suggests that it may be valuable to include ergonomic work practice in the training of dentists and dentists should be involved in a proper exercise routine which should include stretching and weight training to prevent injuries. Regular breaks should be taken to perform stretching exercises in-between the management of patients in order to reduce the risk of MSD.