Introduction: Although musculoskeletal disorders (MSD) have been identified as a significant occupational health issue for dental hygienists, few studies have explored this problem among the dental hygiene student population.
Aim: The aim of this study was to investigate the prevalence and correlates of MSD among a selection of undergraduate dental hygiene students in Australia.
Methodology: A self-reporting questionnaire was distributed to dental hygiene students at an Australian university during 2008, from which a response rate of approximately 72% was achieved.
Results: Musculoskeletal disorders were most commonly reported by students at the neck (64.29%), lower back (57.94%) and shoulder (48.41%) regions. Logistic regression indicated various correlations with MSD. Students who did not undertake regular exercise every week experienced an increased risk of lower back pain [Odds Ratio (OR): 4.88, 95% Confidence Interval (CI): 1.75-14.9]. Students undertaking 16-20 h of desk-based study per week were much more likely to report neck pain (OR: 19.7, 95% CI: 1.34-378.94). Working 6-10 h on a computer each week was a risk factor for shoulder (OR: 7.03, 95% CI: 1.42-39.49) and upper back pain (OR: 5.29, 95% CI: 1.21-25.56).
Conclusions: Overall, this study suggests that MSD are a reasonably common problem for dental hygiene students in Australia. As such, further studies are required to establish epidemiological patterns of MSD, and our profession will need to carefully consider preventive strategies to help minimize the impact of this important occupational health issue on the next generation of dental hygienists.