According to researchers from the University of Iowa, dental hygienists may have some of the highest occupational incidences of carpal tunnel syndrome (CTS).
Dr. Dan Anton and colleagues report that in a survey of 95 dental hygienists, 93% reported at least one musculoskeletal disorder (MSD) in the past year, particularly in the region of the wrist and hand, the neck, and the upper back. At least one survey has found that dental hygienists had the highest rates of carpal tunnel syndrome of all occupations.
Their findings are reported in the September issue of the American Journal of Industrial Medicine.
Roughly 44% reported symptoms associated with CTS such as numbness or tingling. Nerve conduction studies, used to diagnose CTS, found that more than 8% had the clinical condition.
Researchers noted that they had expected to find such a high reporting of CTS symptoms among dental hygienists due to the fact that occupation often requires repeated and forceful gripping of small instruments when cleaning teeth. High forces, repetition, and awkward postures are some risk factors associated with the development of CTS.
Researchers emphasize the need for ergonomic interventions such as workstation redesign as a means to reduce the exposure to risk factors.
The researchers state that, "Carpal tunnel syndrome is a significant health problem in the dental hygiene profession."
American Journal of Industrial Medicine 2002;42:248-257.