Stool and Foot Control Prevent Pain and Preserve Careers

Richard Gawel


Poor posture shortens dental careers. In fact, one out of every 4 dentists becomes disabled at some point due to their posture, according to the American Dental Association. These ailments include musculoskeletal disorders, leading to chronic or debilitating pain in the neck, back, and shoulders.

Chances are, you already feel this pain after long days in the office. In collaboration with dental teams, A-dec has responded with 2 products designed to encourage proper posture and positioning all day long: the A-dec 500 Stool and a new lever-style foot control.

“The inherent work posture—prolonged bending and twisting actions performed in daily clinical practice—is the main cause of chronic pain in the dental profession,” said Greg Watson, senior product manager. “Work postures that are contrary to the body’s biomechanical design begin as cumulative trauma on a daily basis and result in musculoskeletal disorders most commonly in these areas.”

The A-dec 500 provides pressure relief support via a dynamic seat assembly that enables good blood flow to the legs while setting up the lower lumbar for a proper, healthy torso posture. The doctor’s stool and assistant’s stool both feature a dynamic seat designed on a suspension frame that flexes and conforms to the body’s every move.

“A team of engineers, product managers, and sales staff attended the European Society of Dental Ergonomics (ESDE) conference in Germany in 2011. The development team discussed many ideas and concepts. They consumed countless articles and books on ergonomics in general, and many on the difficulties of dental team members,” said Mr. Watson. “Additionally, we worked with physical therapists to gain knowledge of how they assist doctors working in pain.”

To further customize the stools, easy-to-access paddles are micro-adjustable for each user and task, allowing practitioners to remain in an ergonomically healthy posture throughout the day. They do not require a full stroke to activate the adjustment. Each adjustment is infinite, with no discrete steps, so users can dial in exactly the geometry that feels most comfortable.

So how does the A-dec 500 differ from previous and competitive models?

“The dynamic seat assembly is the key difference,” Mr. Watson said. “We have nine patents pending on the new A-dec 500 stools, many of which are associated with the seat system. The 4 performance zones on the seat armature with varying degrees of support and deflection are unique. The upper and lower structures flex and move together to provide great support and comfort.”

Watson also noted the stool’s backseat geometry, which can support the lumbar and encourage an s-shaped spine, even while the dentist is leaning forward to reach and see into the oral cavity. Additionally, the stool’s modern styling matches all other 300/400/500 industrial designs, following the A-dec LED dental light.

Meanwhile, the new lever foot control has been engineered specifically for improved electric motor control. It also will work with all handpieces that are currently used with disc foot controls.

“Current disc foot controls were designed years before electric handpieces,” said Sam Zemke, senior product manager. “Unlike traditional disc foot controls, the new A-dec lever foot control allows precise speed modulation of both electric and pneumatic handpieces.”

The lever style allows operators to switch between cutting wet or dry without looking away from the oral cavity. Ergonomically, its design also allows more operator weight transfer from seat to feet, enabling an athletic stance and s-curvature of the spine. Once the desired handpiece speed is reached, the operator can rest the foot flat on the floor and continue to work in a more relaxed state.

“There is no stress on the leg or foot to maintain a constant speed or even vary the speed a little,” said Mr. Zemke. “Think of it as cruise control. Once you have determined the desired speed, you can relax your foot. You still have complete functionality, but you can drive in a more comfortable state. The lever foot control offers this same type of benefit.”

Mr. Zemke cited the lever foot control’s modern styling and design as another key feature. Also, he called its all-pneumatic valve design simple, reliable, and creative, not requiring any electronics. It can be retrofit with all previous A-dec delivery systems. And, so far, feedback from dentists using the lever foot control has been positive.

“Doctors love the ability to intuitively know if they are cutting wet or dry without looking down at the toggle on the disc foot controls,” said Mr. Zemke. He also noted that doctors appreciate the ability to maintain eye focus on the oral cavity without stopping to switch the water coolant off and on. They also, he said, appreciate how the lever foot control promotes improved working posture and reduces leg and foot muscle fatigue.

“Just try working while standing up with a disc foot control,” he said. “Most of the operator’s body weight is shifted to one side to be able to lift the toe up and down and operate it. With the lever foot control, both operator’s feet rest comfortably on the floor and body weight is evenly distributed. This same even weight distribution is achieved while seated in our new 500 operator stools as well.”

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