Unique Risk Factors in Dentistry

It is no secret that dentistry is hard work, and the unique physical demands of the profession can lead to health complications that may potentially result in a dentist having to leave his or her career earlier than anticipated and file a disability insurance claim. Top reasons for leaving dentistry include musculoskeletal disorders, cardiovascular disease, mental health symptoms (including anxiety and depression), tumors, and diseases of the nervous system.

At the top of the list are musculoskeletal disorders, which can include back pain, hand and wrist problems, and other related disorders. Signs and symptoms of musculoskeletal disorders include:

  • Loss of sensation;
  • Decreased range of motion;
  • Loss of coordination;
  • Loss of balance;
  • Tingling, burning or other pain in the extremities;
  • Numbness;
  • Weak grip or cramping hands; and
  • Clumsiness or dropping objects.

While each dentist’s symptoms and working conditions are unique, one study showed that 87.2% of dentists reported at least one symptom of musculoskeletal disease. While musculoskeletal conditions are common among dentists, they can also be among the hardest to prove up to insurance companies, due to the subjective nature of the many of the symptoms.

Below are some primary factors in the dentistry environment thought to contribute to musculoskeletal disorders:

  • Awkward postures increase stress on spinal disks and joints, especially when the back is bent or twisted during activities (compared to when the spine is straight).
  • Forceful exertions place a high load on muscles, tendons, ligaments, and joints.
  • Repetitive motions increase fatigue and muscle-tendon strain.
  • Extended duration increases the chances of both general and localized fatigue.
  • Contact stresses can create pressure on a specific part of the body, and inhibit blood flow and nerve function.
  • Vibrations may create change in the vascular, neural, and osteoarticular systems.
  • Psychosocial factors. Dentists with musculoskeletal conditions may also be more likely to have poorer psychosomatic health, and may be more likely to experience anxiety about hurting patients due to their limitations.

If you are considering filing a claim, an experienced disability insurance attorney can help you understand the terms of your policy and apply it to your particular situation.

These posts are for informative purposes only and should not be used as a substitute for consultation with and diagnosis by a medical professional. If you are experiencing any of the symptoms described above and have yet to consult with a doctor, do not use this resource to self-diagnose. Please contact your doctor immediately and schedule an appointment to be evaluated for your symptoms.


Anshul Gupta, et al., Ergonomics in Dentistry, International Journal of Clinical Pediatric Dentistry, 2014 Jan-Apr; 7(1): 30-34.

Jamshid Ayatollahi, et al., Occupational hazards to dental staff, Dental Research Journal, 2012 Jan-Mar; 9(1): 2-7.


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