Self-reported occupational health of general dental practitioners

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BackgroundLimited information is available regarding the occupational health status of dentists (particularly in New Zealand), although previous research suggests that stress, hand dermatoses and musculoskeletal symptoms are common.AimsTo determine the occupational health status of New Zealand dentists.MethodsA nationwide postal survey of a representative sample of 750 dentists.ResultsThere was a response rate of 77%. Most dentists (71%) reported their general health as very good or excellent; 43% rated their physical fitness as excellent or very good and 64% were happy and interested in life. Workplace bullying had been experienced by 19% and was higher for female and employee dentists and 29% had experienced a violent or abusive incident at work. Almost half of the sample (47%) had experienced at least one dermatitis-type condition in the previous 12 months. The most commonly reported sites for musculoskeletal problems experienced in the previous year were the neck (59%), lower back (57%) and shoulders (45%). Women had a higher prevalence of several occupational health problems, but were more satisfied with their overall health than male dentists.ConclusionsThe majority of dentists had good general health, but physical fitness levels were not ideal. The prevalence of hand dermatoses and musculoskeletal problems are high and impact significantly on dentists’ daily lives. Interventions such as reducing weight and training in optimal working methods to reduce musculoskeletal problems and injuries (such as eye or needlestick incidents) might improve the health of this workforce but further research is required.

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