The study sought to determine the level of musculoskeletal disorders
among working oral hygienists in South Africa and potential
determinants that are associated with these disorders.
Oral hygienists registered with the HPCSA were requested to
complete an anonymous questionnaire. Apart from demographic
information they were asked to report on any musculoskeletal
symptoms experienced in the hands, neck, shoulders and lower
back as well as details of workload, types of scaling procedures,
size of instruments, the mobility of the operator’s chair and the
adjustability of patient chairs.
Of the 362 respondents, 61.3%, 66.5%, 56.6% and 59.6%,
experienced hand, neck, shoulder and lower back symptoms
respectively. Twenty-eight percent of the respondents performed
hand-scaling for more than four hours per day. Twenty-six
percent reported immobile operator chairs, while 12.6% reported
patient chairs that were difficult to adjust. Employing multivariate
analysis, excessive hand scaling was associated with hand and
shoulder symptoms, while immobile operator’s chairs and poorly
adjustable patient chairs were respectively associated with neck
and lower back problems.
The prevalence of work-related musculoskeletal disorders in practising
oral hygienists in South Africa appears to be similar to that
in developed countries. Significant determinants of musculoskeletal
disorders may be immobile operator stools, poorly adjustable
patient chairs and excessive hand-scaling daily.