Ideas on what to do with your time and brain while on dental hiatus

2019 11 22 23 03 7814 Doniger Sheri 2019 400thumb

I don't know about you, but I was able to take my first real sigh of relief last Friday evening after hearing the update from Kathleen O'Loughlin, DMD, from the ADA. Understanding that we will be able to apply for Small Business Administration relief and make our employees whole was truly a stress-breaker.

I believe we all should have a large amount of gratitude for the ADA and its lobbying, along with the hundreds of thousands of dentists across the nation, to have our specific business needs heard. We closed many of our practices due to state or dental society mandate, and we were all concerned where this would head for our small businesses. I, along with many of our colleagues, have already researched the road to economic relief. We, as a profession, will come back stronger. I am certain.

Sheri B. Doniger, DDS.Sheri B. Doniger, DDS.

Now, what's next? Aside from seeing a limited number of emergency patients, we await the news as to when we will be able to practice again and what our practices will look like. Many of us are focusing on new protocols, including stricter patient screening, while confirming appointments along with bolstering our infection control protocols. If you have any questions about what you need to focus on, OSAP is an outstanding resource. It is allowing all practices to view its content during this time.

So, what about you? How are you working on yourself during these unprecedented times? Many of us are on a mandated state stay-at-home protocol. We are only allowed out to go out for essential tasks, such as going to the grocery store. While standing in the checkout line, socially distanced 6 ft behind the person in front of you, try to remember to balance equally on both feet. Many of us wait in line slouched over on one leg or another. Sometimes we do this while talking to our patients in the treatment room as well. I know I am guilty of this! However, we need to remember to put weight equally on both feet to balance our posture.

I have been in the dental world for more than four decades. I started out as an assistant and then became a dental hygienist prior to going to dental school. I have been working on patients for a very long time. When you think about the toll our profession takes on our bodies, you come to appreciate the gift of time you have right now.

How many of you are experiencing fewer neck and back aches? Do your hands feel less painful? I realize we all were taught proper seating, patient position, and ergonomics in dental assisting, dental hygiene, or dental school. However, when the reality of "that patient" comes into your chair, and you have to accommodate more to be able to visualize your operating field, all that instruction goes out the window.

Great dental stools do help. Several companies are leaders in ergonomic seating. However, it still takes the clinician to sit properly -- and we all know that sometimes it is impossible. We are in pretzel mode for the good bulk of our days.

One of the things I am grateful for is the ability to rest my body. I can sit up straight and focus on relaxing my neck and shoulders. I have been instructed to do a few exercises to ensure my posture is correct during the day, one of which I call "the bandit." I stand with my back to the wall, ensuring my head and shoulders touch the wall, and hold at least 30 seconds.

Another quick tip is to do gentle neck stretches, using only one finger to move your head from one side to another. I perform these moves daily, sometimes even more often during a regular practice day. I am not an exercise specialist by any means, but Harriet is (as pictured). She has given great guidance to me over the years.

Woman performing upper body stretches

With all of the available free streaming content, one of the best gifts you can give yourself is a new set of "moves" to help strengthen your back and posture for when we do start up again. There is no better time to learn something that will benefit your own body and will help take your practice many years into the future. You can't work if your body is screaming in pain.

Try to focus on a few small things now to get stronger and more flexible in order to give you a longer future in dentistry. You have the time! Your body will thank you.

Sheri B. Doniger, DDS, practices clinical dentistry in Lincolnwood, IL. Her book, Practical Practice Solutions in Dentistry, is available on You can reach her at [email protected].

The comments and observations expressed herein do not necessarily reflect the opinions of, nor should they be construed as an endorsement or admonishment of any particular idea, vendor, or organization.

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