Cumulative trauma disorder (CTD) refers to a number of conditions arising from overuse of joints or soft tissues. The common risk factors that contribute to the development of these disorders are related to personal and occupational variables. Job analysis of the tasks performed by the dental hygienist have shown that this occupation is particularly at risk. The objectives of this study were to determine the prevalence of CTD symptoms amongst dental hygienists in Israel and to identify which are the factors that are related to CTD. A questionnaire including items concerning demographic data, employment history, professional occupational information, use of instrumentation, and CTD symptomatology was mailed to all 530 registered dental hygienists. Two hundred forty-six hygienists (46%) returned the questionnaire; 63% of the respondents were classified as CTD 'sufferers', Age, year of graduation, hours worked per week, and frequency of changing instruments were found to be significantly related to CTD symptoms. Hygienists at high risk included those aged 50 years or more (Odds ratio, OR = 6), those who graduated before 1986 (OR = 3), those who work more than 34 h per week (OR = 2.5) and those who change two or fewer instruments per patient (OR = 2). The major recommendation resulting from this study is to make dental hygienists aware that they work in a high-risk profession. It is hoped that increased awareness of the risk will spur the hygienist to make appropriate work practice, administrative, and engineering modifications and to seek treatment at the first indication of CTD symptoms.
Keywords: Cumulative trauma disorder; Dental hygiene; Risk factors.