Occupational stress in dental hygienists

Work. 2010;35(4):455-65. doi: 10.3233/WOR-2010-0982.


Occupational stress represents a cause of attrition from the field of dental hygiene. However, few studies have examined occupational stress in dental hygienists with a focus on the dynamics of the organization and the concept of emotional labor. The purpose of the study was to investigate the nature of occupational stress (organizational stress and emotional labor) in experienced dental hygienists and to examine the relationship between occupational stressors and manifestations of stress (or personal strain). Two hundred invitations were sent to randomly selected dental hygienists in the Northeast. Only 40 dental hygienists met the inclusion criteria for the study and 30 individuals participated in the study. Participants completed a demographics questionnaire, an Emotional Labor Survey, the Occupational Stress Inventory, and a Musculoskeletal Discomfort Body Map. Overall, levels of occupational stressors, personal strain, and coping resources were within norms. The sample indicated high frequency of musculoskeletal discomfort in the neck (87%), upper back (63.3%), lower back (63.3%), shoulders (53%), and wrists (36.7%). Moderate correlations existed among occupational stressors related to organizational ambiguity, emotional labor, personal strain, and musculoskeletal discomfort. Emotional labor emerged as an occupational stressor that may warrant future investigation.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Dental Hygienists / psychology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Middle Aged
  • New England
  • Occupational Exposure / adverse effects*
  • Stress, Psychological / complications*
  • Surveys and Questionnaires