Physical workload was recorded by electromyography, inclinometry and goniometry for twelve female dental hygienists during authentic work. Their work was, in relation to other types of work, characterised by pronounced head flexion (90th percentile 46°), high loads on the forearm extensor muscles (90th percentile 23% and 18% of maximal EMG (MVE), for the right and left sides, respectively), average loads on trapezius muscles (90th percentile 15% and 14% MVE), average arm elevation (99th percentile 83° and 72°) and average wrist flexion and velocities (50th percentiles 17° of extension and 7.3°/s, for the right side). Manual scaling and machinery (use of ultrasonic scaling and hand-pieces) showed higher loads on the trapezius muscles, regarding muscular rest, as well as the 10th and 50th percentiles, than the other tasks, and for the forearm extensor muscles, an almost complete lack of muscular rest (0.1% time), and much higher loads regarding the 10th and 50th percentiles. Further, more pronounced head flexion and lower head and upper arm velocities were found, indicating more constrained postures for the neck and shoulders for the manual scaling and machinery. Use of ultrasonic scaler reduced the 50th percentile loads on the right forearm extensor muscles, but had no effect on the fraction of muscular rest and on the 10th percentile load. These findings are consistent with the high prevalences of musculoskeletal disorders among dental hygienists.
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