Woman is using her phone in a very sunny area

Smartphone Ergonomics: Is Your Phone Making Dental Hygiene Harder?

Sep 08, 2017 

Author: Jessica Raymond-Allbritten, CRDH, BASDH

Did you know that 77 percent of Americans own a smartphone? The Pew Research Center calculated this and other eye-opening statistics on technology in America. To put this into perspective, apply this 77 percent to a real-life scenario. If there are 10 people in the waiting room, it is totally believable that about eight of them are either looking at their smartphone, or have one stowed in their pocket or purse!

What some people may not realize is that mobile devices often compromise users' postures. The long-term effects of poor smartphone ergonomics may cause neck, back, wrist and hand strain. Luckily, proper smartphone posture may help to prevent injuries that could potentially affect your career as a dental hygienist.

Effects of Poor Smartphone Ergonomics

An adult head weighs between 10 and 12 pounds when in a neutral position; however, due to gravity, the head becomes heavier the more you lower your neck. Dr. Kenneth Hansraj, Chief of Spine Surgery at New York Spine Surgery and Rehabilitation Medicine found that bending your neck at a 60 degree angle to look at your smartphone puts 60 pounds of pressure on your spine and muscles in the head and neck. Just tilting your head downward at a slight 15 degrees puts 27 pounds of pressure on your spine.

Loss of the natural curve of the cervical spine may lead to increased muscle fatigue around the cervical area of the spine. Other systemic effects of poor cellphone ergonomics may include eye strain, tendinitis, depression, insomnia and poor sleeping habits.

How to Improve Your Posture

It is important to maintain proper posture at work and during your free time too in order to help preserve the potential longevity of your career. When you use your smartphone or tablet, position the device at or just below eye level, making sure your head is not tilted downward. If it is below eye level, make sure to look down only with your eyes and not to tilt your head. Adjusting the font size may also be helpful in easing eye and muscle strain, rather than holding the device too far or too close to your eyes. Adjusting the resolution, contrast and brightness to a comfortable level may also help with eye strain.

When possible, use your phone's voice functionality while texting to help avoid "texting claw," "cellphone elbow" or tendinitis. As dental hygienists, we rely on our hands and wrists for our careers, so anything we can do to eliminate excessive digital movements, like texting, may help to minimize fatigue and the risk of tendinitis.

Smartphone Posture and Dental Hygienists

Dimensions of Dental Hygiene estimates that 96 percent of dental hygienists experience some kind of neck, back, hip, wrist, arm and/or hand pain due to the demands of the career. Poor smartphone ergonomics may increase dental hygienists' risk of injury and musculoskeletal discomfort. Chairside stretches and improving your posture during the day and after work may help to relieve tension and prevent injuries, and practicing good smartphone posture may help to prevent problems, as well.

There is one more easy way you can lessen the strain brought on by your career and technology use: take a break from technology! On your lunch breaks and just after work, set aside a time to go through your email and visit your social media accounts. After those 15 to 30 minutes are up, move on to another activity.

Takeaways

  • Maintain good posture when you are using a smartphone or tablet.
  • Make time to stretch during the workday and at home.
  • Take a break from technology. Enjoy the world beyond a screen!

Why It's Important

Proper cellphone posture is key. Dental hygienists are already at risk for carpal tunnel and musculoskeletal pain due to the demands of the job. Take some time out of your day to stretch, use your phone's voice functionality, and take a break from your phone to help prevent discomfort and injuries, and to help you have a long and healthy career!