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June JADA finds more research needed into musculoskeletal care for dental professionals

May 24, 2019

By Mary Beth Versaci

June 2109 JADA coverResearch into the effectiveness of preventive and rehabilitative care for musculoskeletal disorders in oral health care professionals is limited, according to a systematic review published in the June issue of The Journal of the American Dental Association.

As part of the article, titled “Prevention and Rehabilitation of Musculoskeletal Disorders in Dental Professionals: A Systematic Review,” the authors included 34 articles related to the topic but found many of the studies were limited by small sample size, duration, convenience sampling, use of surveys and failure to identify funding sources, study limitations and potential sources of bias.

“Given the high prevalence of [musculoskeletal disorders] in oral health care professionals and the fact that these problems may begin to develop during the education process, early intervention is crucial for the prevention and treatment of these disorders,” the authors state. “Investigators should conduct further interventional research on the topic to provide sufficient support for oral health care professionals.”

Many professionals experience daily musculoskeletal discomfort, but they ignore it as “part of the job,” said corresponding author Shawn C. Roll, Ph.D., an associate professor in the Chan Division of Occupational Science and Occupational Therapy at the University of Southern California. However, that pain can lead to suboptimal patient care.

“Furthermore, too often, expert practitioners are forced to reduce their work hours or transition out of patient care due to an inability to continue the physical tasks because of their discomfort or injuries,” Dr. Roll said.

The primary care techniques evaluated in the studies were equipment modification, ergonomic training and physical exercise. Evidence suggests that magnification loupes and indirect-vision techniques have a positive impact on musculoskeletal symptom reduction, but other techniques have mixed evidence or are limited by low-level study design, according to the review.

“As the workforce ages and there are continued movements toward higher productivity and efficiency in care, these behavioral and administrative concerns will become even more important,” Dr. Roll said. “It is vital that all health care professions examine the overall health of their workforce and incorporate worker health as part of the formula for providing high-quality, efficient and effective patient care.”

To read the article, visit

Other articles in the June issue of JADA examine why low-income, urban residents do not drink tap water, discuss an increase in the detection of oral cancer and precursor lesions by dentists and share findings from The National Dental Practice-Based Research Network on the choice of cement for single-unit crowns.

Every month, JADA articles are published online at in advance of the print publication.