Background: Work-related musculoskeletal disorders are one of the main occupational health hazards affecting dental practitioners. This study was conducted to assess the prevalence of Work-related Musculoskeletal Disorder (WMSD) amongst dental students. Possible correlations with the working environment and ergonomics taught in Malaysian dental schools were also sought.
Methods: Five dental schools in Malaysia participated in this cross-sectional study. A validated self-administered questionnaire was used to establish the point prevalence of WMSD in the dental students based on various body regions. The questionnaire also collected data regarding the working environment, clinical practice and the taught ergonomics of the students during their training years.
Results: Out of five hundred and sixty eight dental students who participated in the study, 410 were in their clinical years whilst 158 were students in their non- clinical years. Ninety three percent of the clinical year students reported symptoms of WMSD in one or more body regions. Female students reported a significantly higher numbers of symptoms compared to male students. The neck (82%) and lower back (64%) were reported to have the highest prevalence of WMSD. Discomfort in the neck region was found to be associated with self-reported frequency of bending of the neck. A majority of students (92%) reported minimum participation in workshops related to ergonomics in dentistry and 77% were unfamiliar with treatment and remedies available in the case of WMSD.
Conclusions: There was more WMSD seen in dental students who had started their clinical years. Neck and lower back are more injury prone areas and are at increased risk of developing musculoskeletal disorders. Theory and practice of ergonomics should be incorporated into the dental undergraduate curriculum.