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Sofaden

Physical Demands of Being a Dentist

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I've heard a lot on these forums that being a dentist can be physically demanding (mostly for your hands, neck, and spine) but I was hoping for maybe a bit more elaboration on that. For example, does it impede your quality of life as you get older? Does that put a limit on how long dentists are able to practice? The dentists I shadowed didn't really seem comfortable with me asking questions that were that personal so I didn't know where else to ask.

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As with any repetitive job or activity, there will be wear and tear.  The longer that you do it, the worse it will be. With that said i can think of several dentists working past the age of 65.

Personally, I experience upper body muscle stiffness and soreness all the time.  Sometimes following extremely long and difficult procedures i can't even turn my head without being in pain for days afterwards.  I get pain shooting down my left leg from sitting too long.  i have to see a physiotherapist once a month.   If it's affecting my quality of life now (3 years after graduating), I can only imagine how bad it is later.

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I have a lot of tension in my neck, particularly in the tendons in the occipital region at the base of my skull. I also have triangular fibrocartilage complex issues (my wrists click a whole lot and get extremely sore, I sometimes have to wear wrist braces). My massage therapist tells me I have a lot of tension in my forearms.

I think it really gives you pause as to what you're willing to put up with with respect to work. Older generations were much more okay with putting their bodies at risk to work. I think as time goes on people are less and less inclined to do so.

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Thanks for replying! Would either of you say that the pain associated with dentistry would've given you pause about going into the field, had you known earlier? Like McMaurader said, any repetitive job is bound to cause some damage (for example carpal tunnel in office workers) but in your opinion, do think dentists experience anything egregious?

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I don't think it would have changed my mind about my career choice.  There are many things that i could do to make things better such as going to the gym, stretching, playing sports etc to balance out the muscles that I overuse.  Dentists probably have it worse off compared to many professions because we have to contort ourselves to in ways to ensure patient comfort and to visualize and access our tiny work space.

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