Objective: To determine how early musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs) develop in dental professionals and to explore the potential differences among distinct dental specialties.
Material and methods: 271 dental postgraduates majoring in five dental specialties were recruited, i.e., orthodontics, prosthodontics, endodontics, periodontics and alveolar surgery. 254 age-matched non-dental postgraduates served as the control. The standardized Nordic questionnaire on MSDs and a self-report questionnaire regarding correlative factors (only for dental postgraduates) were answered through emails. Reliability of responses was assessed applying test-retest method.
Results: The intraclass correlation coefficient of participants' answers ranged from 0.89 to 0.96. Dental postgraduates had significantly higher prevalence of MSDs than the control group, especially at neck, upper back and lower back. In all dental specialties included, high prevalence of MSDs was reported at neck (47.5%-69.8%), shoulders (50.8%-65.1%), lower back (27.1%-51.2%) and upper back (25.6%-46.5%), with lower prevalence at elbows (5.1%-18.6%), hips (3.4%-16.3%) and ankles (5.1%-11.6%). Periodontics students reported the worst MSDs in most body regions except wrists and knees, which were more prevalent for prosthodontic and alveolar surgery students, respectively. Furthermore, year of clinical work, clinical hours per week and desk hours per week were found as risk factors for MSDs, whereas physical exercise and rest between patients as protective factors.
Conclusions: High and specialty-related MSDs afflict dental professionals even since very early stage of careers. Prevention aimed at the specialty-related characteristics and the risk/protective factors revealed in this study should be introduced to dental personnel as early as possible.