Ergonomic dental chairs and stools: Key features for pain-free dentistry

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Dentistry is a physically demanding profession, with repetitive reaching, twisting and turning that can lead to chronic back and neck pain. However, a good set of core equipment (patient chair, dental light, delivery system and dental team seating) will enable and encourage comfortable patient positioning and provide excellent access to the patient’s oral cavity. This combination completes an ergonomic solution that benefits the dental staff’s health and well-being. Here, we look at the ergonomics of dental stools and patient chairs from A-dec.

If you’ve ever suffered from back pain, you know that it can affect your mood, sleep, work and overall quality of life. What you may not know is that the design of your dental stool can have a direct impact on how your back feels at the end of each working day.

Hours spent twisting and leaning over patients to get the best possible view of the oral cavity can lead to strain, fatigue and pain over time. This is why the majority of dental health professionals have reported at least one musculoskeletal disorder (MSD) during the past year, with up to 60% of dentists reporting lower back pain—a major factor in shortened dental careers.

Some MSDs, particularly ischemia and premature disc degeneration, are directly connected to how dental professionals are taught to sit: thighs parallel to the floor with hips at a 90-degree angle. This posture is likely a legacy of the flat, non-adjustable stools of early dental chair design.

Research by a physical therapist for Dental Economics found that positioning the hips higher than the knees (for an increased hip angle) reduced lower-back muscle activity and disc pressure. Chairs with a tilting seat were recommended to maintain the natural curve of the lower back. This type of seat design decreased pressure on discs, allowing closer positioning to the patient while reducing lower back pain overall.

A dental stool that promotes healthy posture will provide adjustability, sufficient back and seat support and dynamic performance. The A-dec 500 dental stool, for example, is specifically designed to flex, form and adjust to your every move, for all-day comfort and support. The contoured backrest cradles the spine, while a tilted seat distributes weight from seat to feet, encouraging blood flow and promoting proper circulation.

Dental seating tips for workplace health

Illustration showing unhealthy versus healthy seated position for a working dentist.

When seated, the hips should be above the knees to tilt the pelvis forward which helps create an ‘S’-shaped spine. Sitting with your legs parallel to the floor causes the hips to rotate back which is likely to create an unhealthy ‘C’-shaped spinal curve, putting pressure on the spine.

When adjusted correctly, the A-dec 500 dentist’s stool naturally puts the operator’s hips in the correct position. Optional armrests provide additional support to the lower arms while working in the oral cavity, while a completely redesigned seat section has ‘performance zones’ to properly support the operator in comfort without restricting blood flow to the thighs like conventional stools do.

In the case of the assistant, who is seated higher and therefore must lean forward to work, a torso support arm is required, together with a foot-support ring to alleviate back strain and muscle fatigue, like the one designed into the A-dec assistant’s stool.

A-dec 500: A-dec’s leading premium chair

Often, poor patient chair design prevents dentists from working in an ideal position, causing the operator to hunch over the patient, especially if the chair has a hard, thick backrest or if it cannot be positioned low or high enough. Other problems exist with chairs that aren’t ambidextrous as the operator is forced to do a ‘work around.’ This can cause serious musculoskeletal problems with long-term health consequences.

The A-dec 300, 400 and 500 patient chairs have a large range of vertical motion and ultra-thin, flexible backrests. This enables dentists to position the oral cavity closer to the body, creating angles of access for optimum working positions. There are three distinct features that make the new A-dec a winner in the eyes of dentists:

1. LED indicator lights.

Thanks to the LED indicator lights on the water and air controls in the side of the delivery head which show the handpiece which is in use, dentists don’t have to turn the air completely on and off to identify which handpiece they are adjusting.

2. Positive positioning system.

One of the biggest pain points among dentists is the delivery system drifting away on dental units, which is a known and annoying problem among well-known brands. The new A-dec 500 has a built-in air brake system that holds the control head securely in place without drifting.

The relocated center grab handle is far easier to reach, and the touch-activated capacitive switch automatically unlocks the air brake clutch mechanism, allowing the delivery head to glide easily into position.

3. Superior delivery systems – Continental and Traditional.

The new larger delivery head now has room for up to six instruments and although it is larger than before, the ease of positioning of the delivery arm takes the ‘bulkiness’ out of it, so it feels light and agile.

The relocated center grab handle is far easier to reach, and the touch-activated capacitive switch automatically unlocks the air brake clutch mechanism, allowing the delivery head to glide easily into position.

Traditional delivery system. The handpiece holder on the new A-dec 500 traditional delivery system now has angle adjustment to reduce the risk of needle-stick injury. The new, intuitive icon-based touchscreen is fully adjustable from side to side for the perfect viewing angle.

Continental delivery system. Unique rubber-backed whip arms take the weight of handpiece off the dentist’s hand without excessive resistance like older systems. The new whips also have just the right amount of tension to help put the instrument back in the holders.

The result is far less fatigue and risk of repetitive strain injury while working. Whether you’re working trans-thorax or from the side of the patient, the Continental system also stops the possibility of instruments falling to the ground and being damaged.

The new A-dec Continental system is also superior from an ergonomics and productivity point of view as the eyes do not need to leave the patient when picking up or replacing a handpiece from the control head.

Whether you’ve just started to notice the occasional ache or you’re feeling it every day, a premium patient chair like the A-dec 500 paired with dynamic dental stools for your staff may not only ease your back pain, but it could also extend the length of your dental career.

Speak with your Patterson Dental representative to learn more about A-dec 500 stools and chairs or visit

References and additional resources:

Hayes, M., Cockrell, D., & Smith. (009). A systematic review of musculoskeletal disorders among dental professionals. International Journal of Dental Hygiene, 7(3), 159-165.

Claudia Michalak-Turcotte, CDA, RDH, Marcy Sanders, Jeff Dussetschleger, DDS, MPH, and Melissa Ing, DMD. Selecting Equipment to Fit Your Ergonomic Needs. DentistryIQ. Nov. 1, 2006.

Improving practice health and wellness with ergonomic equipment from A-dec. Off the Cusp. Aug. 24, 2021.

David Burger. Dentist Health and Well-Being Survey Report finds dentists struggle with anxiety, discomfort at work. Feb. 22, 2022.

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Patterson Dental

At Patterson Dental, we are committed to partnering with dental practices of all sizes to help oral health professionals practice extraordinary dentistry. We do this by living up to our promise of Trusted Expertise, Unrivaled Support every day.

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