What Do Ergonomic Chairs Do? How Positioning Leads to a Comfortable Career 

DATE: Oct 26, 2018
AUTHOR: Amber Metro-Sanchez 

Perhaps you've heard another dental hygienist rave about her new saddle stool and how she would never go back to an ordinary chair. You know that ergonomic chairs often come with a number of potential benefits, but also a hefty price tag. You may wonder just what ergonomic chairs can do for you. You may also be overwhelmed by the variety of seating options and about how to decide which one is best for you. Read on for a head start on finding an ergonomic seating solution that fits your needs.

The Potential Problems Associated With Sitting

According to a survey by Business Insider, the dental profession is the second most risky job to someone's health, and one of the reasons is the amount of time spent sitting down. As explained in Dental Economics, your spine naturally has an "S" curvature. When you sit in a seat with a flat base, your spine typically forms a hunched "C" shape that causes tension in the lower lumbar region. This is especially true when you lean forward to peer deep into your patient's mouth. In fact, according to a study published by Healthcare conducted at the Melbourne Dental School, 85 percent of students in dental professions experienced musculoskeletal disorders, with the neck and lower back being the most common areas affected. Since sitting is a part of your job that is impossible to avoid, ergonomic seating is a necessity.

What Do Ergonomic Chairs Do That Standard Chairs Don't?

Traditional dental chairs have a flat seat pan that places your legs at a 90 degree angle to your hips. This position can lead to back pain since it continuously flattens the natural curve of your spine. A flat-seated chair is probably the type that you used while you were in school and is commonly found in dental offices.

Saddle stools, on the other hand, enable dental hygienists to sit higher and closer to their patients, according to RDH Magazine. This positioning eliminates reaching with your instruments and favors an overall neutral posture. The wide spread of your legs encouraged by this chair forms your body into a stable tripod, resulting in strength and balance.

Types of Chairs

Four defined varieties of seat pan designs used in saddle seating are described in RDH Magazine. Each style is designed for differing body types, so every person is able to attain the maximum amount of body support.

  1. The modified English saddle, also known as the Queen Anne style, is shaped like a flying disc that is folded in the middle. This is the most common chair used and it works well with wider hips.
  2. The Western saddle has a raised hump the goes between your legs. This design is longer when measured from front to back than it is from side to side, and it tends to work well for individuals with a narrow pelvis or tight hip muscles.
  3. The Denver saddle is designed for people whose body types are somewhere between the Western and English saddles. It has a smaller, square seat with an area removed from the portion under the tailbone.
  4. The dynamic saddle has a seat that pivots. The seat pan is narrower in the front than the back. This chair also has a lower lumbar support that can be used during breaks.

How to Cover the Cost

Now that you know the benefits of using a saddle stool and the types that are available, the next challenge is budgeting for this new equipment. A good first option is to approach your employer and ask if they will consider fully or partially covering the cost. Another potential option is to speak to a sales representative about special promotions and financing options, and who may even allow you to try out a chair on a trial basis. Putting aside money from each paycheck is also a great way to get started. If a fellow dental hygienist asks, "What do ergonomic chairs do?" you can encourage them to join you!

Takeaways

  • Saddle stools enable you to sit closer to a patient and help you maintain correct posture to reduce strain on your body.
  • Talk to a sales representative to learn more about what type of seating may work best for you.
  • Don't let the cost of proper seating deter you. There are ways to make it more affordable.

Why It's Important

Investing in yourself is essential to a long and comfortable career in dental hygiene. Choosing ergonomic seating to encourage proper posture is a critical first step in this process!