Sit/Stand Positioning- In The Operatory?

Written by Heather Siler

If you’ve been in dentistry for at least 25 years, you remember and may still sit on operator stools manufactured for everyone regardless of their size, height, leg length, shape, torso, or weight. Many clinicians sit on stools provided by the office and have never even heard or thought of ergonomic seating. Conventional seating taught operators to sit with their thighs parallel to the floor which flattens the healthy curve of the spine.  

Sit/stand positioning has become quite popular in many traditional offices. However, the dental office isn’t traditional, and sit/stand techniques must be altered to make it feasible to treat patients while keeping the spine in a neutral position. Studies have shown that adopting the sit/stand technique decreases time sitting, increases muscle activity, expends more energy, and reduces sedentary episodes. Individuals adopting this system report less fatigue, decreased low-back pain, less neck and shoulder pain, and increased productivity. Two options are available for clinicians to create a modified sit/stand technique: the stability ball and the saddle stool.

Stability balls have been utilized in exercise classes and physical therapy for many years and weren’t intended to be used as a seat. They started making their way into offices when it was determined that balls make the user sit up straighter thus maintaining the lumbar curve. If choosing a ball seat, it’s crucial to select a ball that’s appropriate for your weight, height, and leg length. Stability balls are better suited for a workplace other than dentistry where the user sits at a desk and has limited movement. The problem with using stability balls in the operatory is that they are large and treatment rooms are small. The other issue is that the ball must be inflated or deflated depending on the patient.

The second and probably better option for clinicians is the saddle stool. This type of seating promotes proper posture and is easy to maneuver around the operatory and the patient. The shape of the saddle places the pelvis in a neutral position. Western and modified English saddle stools are the two available varieties. Most practitioners prefer the modified English stool because the seat is wide with a slight rise in the middle allowing the operator to sustain a wide stance. The Western saddle has a prominent hump and is narrower which is better suited for those with a narrow pelvis and prefer a more narrow leg stance.

As with any new device, some discomfort may be experienced initially because sit/stand positioning engages different bones and muscles than traditional seating. However, prevention is key to maintaining a healthy and happy body. Furthermore, many companies will send a representative to your office making it easier to try different models before you purchase.