The Reason Dentist Tilts You Upside Down

chair clean clinic dental care
Photo by Daniel Frank on

Don’t like when the dentist chair goes down? Well, you are not alone. When sitting on a dental chair and your dentist begins to tilt the chair down, you feel comfortable to the certain point. But when the seat keeps on going down after you think that surely it cannot go any further and you feel like you are going to slide off the chair, you clutch the chair handles (if there is any – mine doesn’t). You might state that you feel like you are upside down. You might ask the dentist to lift the chair more upward position, or to adjust the head rest so that you feel more comfortable.

Guess what we think at that point? Well, normally we might feel slightly annoyed because you might be the dentist’s fifteenth patient that day and her back and shoulders are aching from the difficult working positions. Nevertheless the dentist might lift the chair more upright. Some might not even tilt patients low enough in the first place to avoid complaint that we have heard gazillion times before.

Neither of these ways is good practice because these dentists and hygienists who are trying to fulfil patient’s every wish, risk their future as dental professionals. Keeping the patient chair in too upright position means that it is practically impossible to work ergonomically. Working ergonomically as often as possible guarantees that we will be working on our dream job (?) until we retire.

Of course there are patients that we need to leave upright position by default. These patient are e.g. heavily pregnant ladies, obese people, people with heart condition and elderly people. But the normal patients can be tilted to the position that is best for dental professionals posture. By normal I mean patients that are healthy or do not have severe medical conditions.

Request for the Patients

Next time you visit your dentist, make her happy by not saying anything about the position of the chair. They will not let you fall. Also you will get better quality of treatment when the dentist can see better to the difficult areas of you mouth. And you don’t need to swallow so much of water when the nurse is able to see the back of you mouth.

Advice for the Dental Professional

But what to do when a patient complains about the chair position? Well, the key to keeping patient happy is to be one step ahead of the game.

First thing you can do is to take the chair down gradually. Taking it all the way down in one go will most probably make your patient complain.

If I hear a complaint even though I’be been tilting the chair down slowly, I reassure the patient by saying

I know you feel like you are going to slide off the chair but so far no-one has. You will get used to the position soon. This position helps me to keep my posture and to see your upper teeth properly.

Patient is often fine during the treatment. When the session is over and I lift the chair up again, some patients state that they feel dizzy when getting up. Tell them to sit still and that there’s no hurry to leave the patient chair (well, you need to make the notes anyway, so it does not require extra time). It is best to sit still, well supported and wait for the things to settle.

If you face a difficult patient that insists to lift the chair more upright even though there is no medical reason for it, tell them that you will do so if the patients feels it is necessary but that you cannot guarantee the best possible result of e.g. scaling because you won’t be able to reach the upper back teeth in a right angle. And if you do still need to lift the chair too upright, it is best to stand up to be able to have as good posture as possible.

If It Really Is Your Dream Job – Important Tip for You

I’ve noticed that it is often the dentists and hygienists that have just graduated that too easily work in non-ergonomic way. It probably is because they still feel invincible. I know, because I did so too! Now having been on this profession for over 20 years and having had both of my shoulders operated (successfully!) due to work related conditions in both of them, I really need to focus on better posture with each patient. And still I get back ache almost every day. But I’m no longer in despair because I have found a cure for the back ache. So keep on reading because I’m going to share the best tip for keeping you going day after day, week after week, year after year in this profession.

I’ve known for a long time that there are these foam rollers that you can buy to exercise at home. Even my gym has had them for ages. But I never really knew how or why to use it until one day I tried one for my back. I placed it between the floor and my back, placed my hands on my shoulders (left hand to right shoulder and right hand to left shoulder) and by using my legs rolled the foam roller slowly up and down my spine like in the picture here. You can also find a good video of using the roller here.

This really keeps me going and I wonder why no-one has told me about it before!? That is why I’m telling you.

Before you start using the foam roller, there is one thing you need to keep in mind. My physiatrist emphasised that if you are going to use a roller, it needs to be a foam roller. Too hard roller will not be good for your spine.

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