A story that shakes you up - about dentists and vibration injuries

Vibrations from work equipment are a recurring problem in many workplaces. Dentists and dental technicians are some of the professional groups exposed to what is known as hand and arm vibrations (Centre for Occupational and Environmental Medicine in Region Stockholm in one of its fact sheets). We talk about studies that indicate that vibration injuries are a major problem caused by dental instruments. And about KaVo’s instruments which have received the highest ratings in an independent comparison study, including for low vibration values.

In one study, 83% of the surveyed dentists reported work-related musculoskeletal pain.

The Swedish Work Environment Authority mentions dentists as one of the particularly vulnerable occupational groups.

Occupational groups exposed to strong hand vibrations can experience a variety of complications. Among other things, they can suffer from vascular damage, also called white fingers or Raynaud’s phenomenon.

Nerve damage can occur, resulting in pain, numbness, and/or reduced sensitivity. Muscle and skeletal injuries can cause significant loss of muscle control and induce pain.

A study points to dentists as a highly vulnerable professional group - warns of irreversible damage.

In a study ** published in 2021, as many as 83% of the surveyed dentists reported work-related musculoskeletal pain in the upper body regions. A strong contributing factor to this is believed to be exposure to vibrating handheld tools causing what is known as hand-arm vibration syndrome, which, in turn, leads to vascular and neuromuscular symptoms. The injuries often manifest themselves in the form of pale (white) and cold fingers, often combined with reduced sensitivity. This is also called secondary Raynaud’s disease. There have also been reports of additional possible correlations between white fingers and hearing impairment, which is particularly interesting for the professional group of dentists who are overrepresented in studies on both hearing impairment and vibration damage. In a debate article on vibration injuries in dentistry, KaVo draws attention to a health and safety problem.

1 in 3 dentists experience problems.

In several different studies, more than one third of the surveyed dentists reported that they experience work-related pain in their hands.

The problems worsen over time due to prolonged exposure, but there seems to be a lack of studies on dentists who are not of working age. We ask ourselves what share of those dentists have vibration injuries?

But we assume that many dentists who are no longer of working age are also affected, as problems like these often worsen over time.

Reduced exposure is recommended

The Work Environment Authorities in the Nordic countries recommend a maximum vibration load of 2.5 m/s² for the duration of 8- hours. 

We at KaVo understand that a reduction in the number of occasions of using instruments can be difficult for the dental profession. 

Then a more feasible effort may instead be to invest in equipment that produces less vibration.

Read an interview with KaVo’s technical manager about what makes a difference when it comes to vibrations in instruments.

As an employer, are you aware of your preventive work on vibrations?

Please read the recommendations from the Nordic countries Work Environment Authority.

In an independent comparison study conducted by RISE (on behalf of Region Jönköping in Sweden), our instruments received the highest rating. It states that both the vibration level and the rotational speed of the turbine from KaVo are lower than those of our competitors.