Being in the dental profession is challenging. It can be hard mentally, emotionally, and physically. We are charged with providing excellent care to our patients while maintaining busy schedules and providing support for our fellow team members, all with a smile and an upbeat attitude. Dentistry is not for the weak!
Most of us know and accept that holding awkward, static postures is, unfortunately, the norm in the dental profession. What we may not know is the internal damage this causes to the musculoskeletal system. When a muscle is isometrically contracted over a period of time, blood flow (the ultimate healer) is restricted, causing cellular damage to occur. If we don't rest the muscle and stretch it out, cellular damage will accumulate and eventually turn into a musculoskeletal disorder (MSD). We can limit the progression of this cellular damage by taking microbreaks throughout our day.
You may be thinking, "What the heck is a microbreak? Also, I don't have time for ANY break, no matter how micro!"
Bear with me here. A microbreak is a short (20-30 second) break every 20 minutes or so to stretch out a muscle that has been under stress. Most microbreaks can be done chairside while your patient is in the chair. Since the upper trapezius muscle is the most commonly contracted and overused muscle among dental practitioners, I frequently stretch this out. But you can also stretch out your neck, arms, wrists, hands, and back while remaining chairside. And since the breaks are just a few seconds, they won't impact your schedule.
Since our job can be mentally fatiguing and emotionally draining, try to find time to take a few deep diaphragmatic breaths or even a short walk to clear your head and be more mindful.
We give so much to others in our profession; don't forget to give a little to yourself too.