Manual dexterity is essential for any dental clinician. However, the fine motor skills needed to manipulate tiny instruments and perform delicate and technically
challenging procedures are hampered when you suffer from chronic pain in your hands and wrists. The very nature of dentistry requires you to repeat movements,
grip small handles, and place your hands and fingers into awkward positions, often for hours on end. It is no wonder that so many dentists and dental assistants are afflicted by persistent hand pain. The Cause of the Problem Many dental professionals assume that their hand pain symptoms are due to carpal tunnel syndrome. On the surface, this assumption makes sense. After all, carpal tunnel often results from repetitive motions. But as pointed out in this article in Dental Products Report, many cases of dentists’ hand pain are not attributable to carpal tunnel. Instead, recalcitrant hand pain is more likely due to referred cervical pain, thoracic outlet syndrome, impinged nerves, or arthritis. Tendinitis is also another likely culprit, especially with continuous gripping and wearing gloves that may be constricting. Certainly, dental professionals are at-risk for all of these conditions with the unnatural body positioning they must constantly assume.
What is the solution?
Conservative measures for chronic hand pain that work well for the general public may not be well-suited to dentists. Local ice and heat application may soothe hand pain at the end of the workday, but when you’re in the clinic five or six days per week, these therapies don’t have the opportunity to provide lasting relief. Likewise, a hand brace or splint will likely not be of much use as the device would interfere with your dexterity and range of motion. Ergonomics training can be beneficial to office workers, but dentists don’t typically suffer hand pain from typing. Over the counter anti-inflammatory medications are often not strong enough to hold off constant pain, and prescription analgesics come with many side effects that are undesirable, particularly to dental practitioners. So, you are left with surgery - invasive procedures that may or may not resolve your pain but will certainly keep you out of the office for weeks. You are also left with no guarantee that your chronic hand pain will permanently improve. Another Option Perhaps a topical medication is the best approach - not something that has a weak, dissipating effect like capsaicin or menthol but a medication that lasts and can conquer pain from tendinitis, osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, and a number of other sources. Such a medication would be a conservative, non-invasive option. Cannabidiol (CBD) oil products can provide relief from many forms of chronic pain. Transdermal CBD oil has been shown in animal models to reduce joint inflammation and has excellent bioavailability. Despite common misconceptions, CBD oil attaches to the CB2 receptors, which produces no “high.” Conversely, THC - the compound that gives marijuana its psychoactive properties - interacts with the CBD1 receptors. So, dentists can use transdermal CBD oil with no fear of impairment. Enduring unrelenting pain is difficult for anyone, but when your profession and your dental practice depend on your manual dexterity, it’s time to seek alternative, effective options.