Poster Session
Issue Date: August 2016
Published Online: August 01, 2016
Updated: January 01, 2021
Engaging Dental Students in Ergonomics
Author Affiliations
  • Medical University of South Carolina
Article Information
Work and Industry / Prevention and Intervention
Poster Session   |   August 01, 2016
Engaging Dental Students in Ergonomics
American Journal of Occupational Therapy, August 2016, Vol. 70, 7011515249.
American Journal of Occupational Therapy, August 2016, Vol. 70, 7011515249.

Date Presented 4/7/2016

An occupational therapy student research team observed and tracked the effect of ergonomics education on improving body mechanics and posture within each year’s senior class of dental students, using direct observation and video recording of the Rapid Upper Limb Assessment.

Primary Author and Speaker: Peter Bowman

Contributing Authors: Claire Murphy, Marie Schaner

PURPOSE: The purpose of this study is to track the effectiveness of ergonomics education on promoting proper posture and body mechanics in dental students as an interprofessional activity.
Graduate dental students who have received no specific education about ergonomics will demonstrate low scores on a pretest of principles regarding musculoskeletal hazards among their profession, but an ergonomic lecture and skills lab will produce a significant increase in their knowledge of ergonomic principles as indicated by increased test scores.
RATIONALE: Dental practitioners commonly suffer from musculoskeletal issues as they work as practicing dentists. Occupational therapy (OT) students and faculty provided lecture and hands-on experience with dental students. We aimed to provide education and lab experience to prevent this negative outcome.
DESIGN: The study was quasi-experimental and not randomized. Video was used to record ergonomics evaluations so that they could be viewed multiple times.
PARTICIPANTS: Dental medicine students for the pre- and knowledge examination, lecture input, and hands-on lab experiences. Convenience sampling of clinically practicing dental students was used for the dental student ergonomic evaluation as they were treating patients.
METHOD: Pre- and postexamination, dental student evaluation, including visual observation measurement and use of the Rapid Upper Limb Assessment (RULA); video recording to enable multiple viewing and to establish interrater and intrarater reliability
ANALYSIS: A two-tailed paired t test was conducted to compare the preexamination scores and postexamination scores. Interrater and intrarater reliability were established by comparisons with an expert rater and consistency by comparing consistency of individual raters.
RESULTS: The mean preexam score for participants (N = 60) was 48.60 (standard deviation [SD] = 9.07) versus the postexam mean of 64.13 (SD = 12.08) for the same 60 participants. A two-tailed paired t test was conducted to compare the pretest scores and posttest scores. The difference between these scores was found to be extremely statistically significant (t = 9.463, p < .0001).
RULA scores ranged from 4.67 to 6.89 with an average score of 6.22. (RULA scores range from 1 to 7.) This average score indicates a very high risk of musculoskeletal injury, suggesting implementation of change immediately as per the RULA guidelines. This score confirms the hypothesis. As we progress with this research, we will be analyzing students who have received the educational input.
DISCUSSION: In conclusion, the paired t test showed an improvement from pretest to posttest scores, further suggesting that an ergonomic lecture and lab experience does increase dental students’ knowledge of ergonomics. This ongoing research project should help to determine whether an increase in ergonomic knowledge carries over to improved posture and motion among this population. It can also be inferred that students without ergonomic instruction demonstrate improper ergonomics that may cause long-term musculoskeletal injuries in the future. The examination of RULA data indicate that the evaluation process used is relatively reliable and accurate.
IMPACT STATEMENT: Ergonomics is an important component of OT practice; to use this to educate and evaluate other professions so that OT is impacting other professions in an interprofessional way is important. This preventive OT approach can prevent future injuries to dentists. It can exert a powerful influence on occupational therapy as OT becomes known for consultation in ergonomics to dentistry and other professions.