There are risks for personal injury in virtually any profession. The dental industry is no exception. While you may not have to worry about many common occupational hazards, you may experience dentist hand pain at some point.
Why Is Hand Pain So Common For Dentists?
It makes sense that hand pain would be a common ailment of the profession when you consider how much dentists use their hands throughout the day. Dentists are four times more likely to experience hand pain when compared to members of the general public.
Thankfully, the presence of pain does not indicate your time as a practicing dentist is over. In fact, many causes of hand pain are inconsequential. That’s why it’s important for you to understand why you might experience hand pain in the first place and discuss with your doctor.
Possible Reason #1: Constant Grip
Whether you are performing a routine checkup or an extensive, challenging root canal, you are constantly gripping tools. It stands to reason that the muscles in your hand will cramp up due to excessive gripping after a sustained period of time. When you combine this with the fact that you will likely be in an awkward position in uncomfortable angles as well when using said tools, it can leave you with muscle pain, repeated cramps and joint discomfort on the regular. Tools can also be heavy, which only perpetuates the issue.
Possible Reason #2: Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
Carpal tunnel syndrome (CTS) is one of the most commonly diagnosed ailments for dentists. However, some of these diagnoses turn out to be inaccurate. Nevertheless, CTS is still a known, valid reason for hand pain in the dentistry profession. While tingling, numbness and pain in the hands are all early symptoms of CTS, they can also indicate other ailments, hence the confusion and misdiagnosis issue. If you believe your current hand pain is caused by CTS, you should seek a proper diagnosis from a medical professional. You will find some common conditions that are mistaken for CTS listed below:
This is hand pain that is caused by or originates within the cervical spine. It often involves a disruption in the nerve that supplies the arm and hand.
Thoracic Outlet Syndrome
This is a neurovascular disorder that is caused when pressure is placed on the blood vessels or nerves of the brachial plexus which supply the hand, fingers and arm.
Nerve Entrapment and Trigger Points
While not a “condition” muscle-referred pain is a well researched and documented issue that is a known source of pain all over the body. There are many trigger points relating to specific muscles that very much mimic the symptoms of CTS in the hands.
For many of the same reasons as hand pain caused by constant gripping, CTS is believed to affect dentists more due to the contortion, angles and the weight of the tools they have to use regularly. This consistent movement, gripping and odd angles can become debilitating for dentists.
Possible Reason #3: Repetitive Motion Syndrome
If you are like most dentists and have a consistent amount of checkups keeping your practice busy, your hands are performing virtually the same tasks several times a day on multiple patients. While having a steady stream of patients is financially advantageous for your practice, it can take its toll on your hands due to the repetitive motion demands.
You should know that repetitive motion syndrome isn’t considered a chronic condition. Instead, it is simply a way to describe the fact that your hands hurt in the same place, often at the same time of day, usually on the days you practice dentistry.
What Can You Do to Reduce the Repetitive Motions of Dentistry?
Unfortunately, there is no way to stop using your hands completely as a practicing dentist. However, you can ask your hygienist to share some of the motion-intensive aspects of a regular checkup.
You should also allow yourself some time in between patients to rest your hands and truly let them relax out of the gripping motion they are normally in when working. These changes may help reduce the wear and tear your hands endure on a regular basis
Cover Yourself in Case Dentist Hand Pain Worsens
Dentists whose hand pain becomes too much to bear may be forced to make some life-impacting choices about their career. Thankfully disability insurance may provide a portion of your current income if you are no longer able to use your hands to practice dentistry.
It’s important to ensure you’re getting a right type of policy, with appropriate coverages. Learn more in our comprehensive guide about disability income insurance and what it could mean for you.
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This content is intended for general informational purposes and should not be construed as advice. The terms and definitions are not binding. Please consult with a licensed insurance professional and review your insurance policy. Coverage options and availability may vary. Pre-existing conditions may result in an exclusion or declination of coverage.
Treloar & Heisel, Inc. and its divisions do not offer medical advice. Please consult with a medical professional concerning these topics.