ERGONOMICS OF THE DENTAL PRACTICE
Current dental practice realizes the value of and importance in effective functioning of ergonomics. Each type of dental surgical unit has different needs depending on the type of specialty of dentistry that is predominantly carried out. The correct design of the dental practice provides good walking and movement space, is comfortable for the dentist as well as the patients, gives good light and ambience to the dental station, and minimizes clutter. It should allow also for the provider to have close access to the patient’s oral cavity without compromising posture and thereby affecting the health of the practitioner himself.
Keeping this in mind, I have made some changes in my dental office that ensure that I make the most out of my area of dental practice, have good access to all things that I need, and am able to ensure health safety for myself, my patients and my staff. Therefore, I have created more space for my dental unit and room rather than allot more space to the waiting area. I have removed unnecessary items from the waiting area such as pots and plants, decorative items etc. to give it a roomier feel. I have built a smaller reception desk with full features of drawers and sections, which allow for better documentation and inventory of the records of the patient. I have placed a computer, a telephone and an intercom so that the receptionist does not have to run around the clinic to manage appointments or patients, and can easily contact me when she needs to.
I have designed the operatory to have the minimum of plumbing, electrical wiring, telephone wiring and equipment wiring in sight by placing them behind counters or in cabinets. This has prevented cords to come between the feet, and keeps my operatory cleaner with less clutter.
I have made sure that all the things that I need while working on my patient are in complete reach of my hands. This prevents me to repeatedly get up, and then readjust my position before resuming my work on the patient. Also it prevents me to rely too heavily on the assistant, who I can then assign to do other work, such as developing an x-ray, preparing impression material etc.
The organization of the dental materials is another important component of the dental surgery and requires much of the space in the dental office. For this purpose, I have arranged the dental practice to have the sterilization unit, the inventory and the waste unit on one side of the room. This helps the assistant to clear the clutter from the dental chair, and while I am working on a new patient, carry out washing, sterilizing, and replacement of things in their allotted places and taking out new materials from the cabinets without moving around or distracting me. I have also kept the working laboratory area in the same space, so that the assistant is able to carry out all the functions without having to run from one corner of the room to the other.
I have also made sure that I keep only that equipment that is used with most frequency out in the open. All the rest of the equipment that requires less frequent use is placed in the cabinets. This clears up the space of the active operating area, and creates less visual clutter. It makes my operatory look bigger as well. Along side, I have made sure that the equipment and material is placed behind my patient. Many of the patients get nervous when they see a lot of equipment. Therefore, to reduce their stress, I make sure that I place material and instruments that are out of vision of the patient, allow easy access for me, and can be easily removed from sight without patient looking at it.
I have made a discussion area in the office that is separate from the dental chair. Instead of placing the patient directly on the dental chair, which can cause anxiety, I first have a detailed discussion on a doctor’s table. On it I have kept many models and specimens as well as educational material, so that should the patient have to wait, or is inquisitive about a certain treatment, he or she can look it over and discuss more clearly. I have kept this place out of vision from the dental operatory, so that the patient does not have to look at the various before and after cleaning procedures of the dental chair, or placement of new equipment etc. Patients like to see the dental unit clean and spotless at all times, and therefore, I make sure that they enter the area when it has been cleaned and properly sterilized. This gives the patient confidence that he or she is having the best of services, where sterilization is given top most priority.
Finally, the ergonomics of the dental surgery requires that all personnel are able to work efficiently without affecting their health. The dentist for example, may suffer from backache if he or she does not seat himself properly. I have therefore, made sure that the dental seat and the chair are in close proximity, thereby avoiding my need to bend over the patient excessively, which may lead to backaches. Also, I have arranged for sitting stools for my assistant and receptionist so that they are able to carry out most of the chores while sitting down, thereby improving their performance and productivity.
These simple steps have made my dental practice a very easy to use and practical setup. It is helpful for me, my assistants as well as for the patients, who appreciate the good design of the setup.