The purpose of this study was to examine the relationship between working conditions and sick leave in Swedish dental hygienists. Seventy-one percent of 577 randomly selected dental hygienists responded to a questionnaire. From those who responded (n=411) a homogenous group of 252 was selected. They were assigned to four groups that exhibited either musculoskeletal disorders (MSD), low well-being (LWB), both low well-being and musculoskeletal disorders (BLM), or relative health (main group or M group). These groups were further divided according to number of sick days taken per year. Non-parametric statistics and logistic regressions were used for analyses. Those with MSD worked more clinical hours and treated more patients per day than the other groups. While the M group had fewer sick days, better work climates and decreased demands on work efficiency, increased sick leave within this group was related to greater staff numbers and less commitment to improving work processes. In the M group, role ambiguity and LWB were associated with absence of 1-3 days, compared with those who took no sick leave. Respondents in the LWB group, who perceived role ambiguity, were absent more than 7 days/year, compared with those who perceived role clarity. Management issues were the distinguishing factor for those who had severe health problems.
In conclusion: role ambiguity is the predominant psychosocial factor associated with sick leave. Psychosocial management factors rather than physical work factors seem important for work and sick leave rates among dental hygienists.