ADAA View Course

The Ergonomics of Dental Assisting: Preventing and Managing Work-Related Pain (AGD 130)

Presenter: Dr. Bethany Valachi, PT, DPT, MS, CEAS


Providing dental care often requires sustained postures, awkward movements and repetitive motions. Dental assistants face a unique set of musculoskeletal challenges when delivering dental care:  the inability to position knees under the patient, static chairside postures and poor operatory layouts may lead to chronic low back pain or other musculoskeletal disorders.

If dental professionals ignore regularly occurring pain or discomfort, the cumulative physiological damage can lead to an injury or career-ending disability. Knowledge of how physical damage occurs, proper body mechanics in the operatory, adjustment of ergonomic equipment and balanced musculoskeletal health can help assistants implement effective injury prevention strategies, make wise choices regarding ergonomic equipment and place of employment, improve quality of life and extend their careers.


Dr. Bethany Valachi, PT, DPT, MS, CEAS is author of the book, "Practice Dentistry Pain-Free", clinical instructor of ergonomics at OHSU School of Dentistry in Portland, OR and lectures internationally on the topic of dental ergonomics. For over 20 years, Dr. Valachi has helped thousands of dental professionals prevent pain and extend their careers with her relevant, evidence-based dental ergonomic education and consultations. She has published more than 60 articles in peer-reviewed dental journals and offers dental ergonomic educational materials and virtual coaching on her website at


After completion of this course, the dental professional should be able to:

• Describe how ergonomic principles apply to dental assisting.
• State the primary Cumulative Trauma Disorder (CTD) to which dental assistants are susceptible and explain how this CTD occurs in dental assisting.
• Recognize the warning signs of developing CTDs.
• Describe neutral posture of the spine, shoulder and wrist.
• Describe proper positioning of the assistant in relation to the patient and doctor.
• Demonstrate proper use and placement of the torso support bar.
• Identify important features of assisting stools and how to properly adjust them.
• Describe proper positioning of the patient in the chair using flat and double articulating headrests.
• Explain proper and improper placement of delivery systems and instrument trays.


The ADAA has an obligation to disseminate knowledge in the field of dentistry. Sponsorship of a continuing education program by the ADAA does not necessarily imply endorsement of a particular philosophy, product or technique.

Credits earned upon completion of this course may be used to meet DANB’s Recertification Requirements.

The ADAA cautions participants taking this course on the hazards of using limited knowledge when integrating new techniques into their practices.


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