Physical Therapy and Dental Hygiene Faculty Collaborate to Advance Ergonomic Education

Dr. Brian Wilkinson recently collaborated with Holly Erenfeld, Dental Hygiene Studies assistant professor on an inter-professional presentation at the 2021 American Dental Education Association Annual Conference. During this virtual peer-reviewed conference, Professors Wilkinson and Erenfeld focused on the following four learning objectives:

  1. Recognize the prevalence of musculoskeletal disorders in dental and allied dental professionals.
  2. Describe the vital elements of the Core Four method, and how a daily movement program for dental and allied dental professionals may alleviate stress on the human body.
  3. Identify the appropriate sequencing and timing of activity-specific movements for routine clinical practice.
  4. Discern effective ways to integrate the expertise of a physical therapist as a means to complement the ergonomic content that can be supplied by a dental or allied dental instructor. 

During their interactive presentation, participants performed the Core Four movement routine that was developed at Pacific University (two stretches and two movements) and published in Dimensions of Dental Hygiene (January 2019;17(1):36–39.). 

Presentation Abstract and Session Description 


Oral health professionals perform sustained and repetitive movements as elements of routine care; since this bodily stress begins with occupation-specific skill acquisition, intentional activities that limit the onset of a musculoskeletal disorder (MSD) should be introduced to students in training. Although some academic programs have sought to integrate ergonomic content in isolated environments, a comprehensive curriculum that establishes minimum competencies has not yet been standardized. This presentation will showcase evidence-based strategies and practical examples for dental and allied dental students from an interdisciplinary approach and will empower the attendee to recognize essential components of delivering ergonomic education to aspiring providers.

Session Description

In the United States, 97% of dental hygiene programs instruct students to maintain correct positioning and instrumentation techniques; however, only 32% provide additional ergonomic education such as preventative exercise or guest speakers. At Pacific University, the School of Dental Hygiene Studies (DHS) incorporated a physical therapist in providing instruction related to ergonomics to first-year students that was reinforced after every clinic session in the DHS program. This presentation highlights strategies to generate enhanced ergonomic curriculum and shares guidelines for dental and allied dental faculty from the curricular revision Pacific University implemented starting in 2018.

Wednesday, April 14, 2021