Failure to Properly Maintain Dental Handpieces Could Result in Numerous Hand and Wrist Complications
As a dentist, you face many ergonomic issues in your workplace. Throughout history, the ergonomic risk factors that dental practitioners are exposed to have led to the development of many types of musculoskeletal disorders. While it is true that identifying the underlying causes of the development of these disorders is considered to be exceptionally difficult, malfunctioning dental handpieces or dental handpieces that have not been properly maintained are consistently coming up as potential causes. This is because of the primary occupational risks faced by those that practice dentistry. Examples of these risks include repetitive movements, varying degrees of force, mechanical-based stressors, vibration exposure, extreme temperatures, and posture. In this brief guide, you will be introduced to a few of the most common hand and wrist complications that may occur if you fail to have your dental handpieces properly maintained.
Common Hand and Wrist Complications
Musculoskeletal disorders have the potential to take many different forms when it comes to the use of faulty or improperly maintained dental handpieces. The medical issues that may be experienced include cumulative trauma disorder, overuse syndrome, repetitive strain injury, trigger finger, carpal tunnel syndrome, repetitive stress disorder, tendinitis, and occupational repetitive micro-trauma. For the purpose and intent of this guide, we will focus on the common issues of tendinitis, trigger finger, and carpal tunnel disorder:
- Tendinitis – If you use improperly maintained or malfunctioning dental handpieces, you may develop inflammation of the tendon and/or sheath that covers the tendons of the muscles that are responsible for controlling the movements of the fingers, the wrist, as well as the forearm. This condition is referred to as “Tendinitis”. Many medical professionals may refer to the condition as “Tenosynovitis”. In most instances, the effects of this condition are felt in the muscles that control the index finger and the thumb.
- Trigger Finger – When tenosynovitis advances, it could result in the narrowing of the sheath that is covering the detrimentally impacted tendon. As a result, the smooth movements of the tendon is prevented. This results in the development of a nodule that could result in trigger-type movements. This is most often a direct result of continually and forcefully gripping a dental handpiece or moving in a repetitive manner. Symptoms may include pain, swelling, and tenderness.
- Carpal Tunnel Syndrome – If a dental handpiece that has not been properly maintained or is faulty is used on a continuous basis by a practitioner, it could result in the compression of the nerves in the hand. This includes any of the nerves in the hand – the radial nerve, the ulnar never, and/or the medial nerve; however, it is most commonly associated with the median nerve because it is this nerve that passes through the area of the wrist known as the “carpal tunnel”. The most common symptoms associated with this medical issue include – but, are not at all limited to – hand numbness, tingling and potentially painful sensations, hand weakness, problems with grasping, and dropping objects.
As you can see, there are many hand and wrist problems that may develop in dentist practitioners that elect to use dental handpieces that have not been properly maintained and/or are faulty. The most common of these issues – tendinitis, trigger finger, and carpal tunnel syndrome – have been outlined in this brief guide. Regardless of severity, all of these problems could result in problems in performing your job optimally.
If you want to avoid increasing the risk of developing these problems, we here at Hughes Dental can help! We not only perform maintenance on dental handpieces, but, we have the knowledge and expertise to repair dental handpieces and may help increase the productivity and success of your practice.