Date of Award

Spring 2021

Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Science in Dental Hygiene (MSDH)


Dental Hygiene


Dental Hygiene

Committee Director

Jessica R. Suedbeck

Committee Member

Emily A. Ludwig

Committee Member

Brenda Bradshaw


Problem: The purpose of this pilot study was to assess biomechanical and postural impacts of sitting and standing independently during dental hygiene practice. Methods: A convenience sample of thirty-four second-year dental hygiene students with no history of musculoskeletal disorders were enrolled in this study. Participants were randomly assigned to instrument one quadrant of the mouth on buccal or lingual surfaces while seated or standing during two independent research sessions. Two images per session, for a total of four images per participant, were taken to assess biomechanical demands of each posture using the Rapid Upper Limb Assessment (RULA) tool. The images were independently scored by four calibrated researchers and then a mean score was utilized for data analyses. An end-user survey was also completed by participants at both sessions to gather participant perceptions of posture and pain. Results: Thirty-four female second year dental hygiene students completed the study and had useable images for data analyses. Results revealed statistically significant differences in mean RULA scores indicating better posture while seated (M = 3.91, SD = 0.77) when compared to standing (M = 4.50, SD = 1.00) (p=0.001). No participants had acceptable postures for either sitting or standing, as indicated by scores on the RULA. Overall, 79% of participants perceived their posture to be neutral, somewhat good, or very good when seated and 71% of participants perceived their posture to be neutral, somewhat poor, or very poor when standing. Conclusion: The results support the need for additional ergonomic training and education in the dental hygiene curriculum and future research on biomechanical and postural loads of each posture. A larger, more diverse sample of clinically practicing dental hygienists could provide more insight into the ergonomic benefits of sitting and standing postures and the associated musculoskeletal disorder (MSD) risks throughout the workday.


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