Tips for a healthy lifestyle in and out of the operatory

Dental professionals' bodies endure a lot of strain, and careers are often cut short by injury. Here's a few tips to improve your health inside and outside the operatory, keeping the career you love going longer.

Content Dam Diq Online Articles 2016 07 Exercise Dental Professionals Thumb
Dental professionals' bodies endure a lot of strain, and careers are often cut short by injury. Here's a few tips to improve your health inside and outside the operatory, keeping the career you love going longer.

The average work day for a dental hygienist is eight hours, which are mostly sedentary. The CDC has named physical inactivity the fourth leading cause of death around the world. (1)In order to reduce the risk of inactivity, it is essential that dental professionals invest in their physical health through proper diet and exercise. Overcoming the obstacles of maintaining full-time work, family responsibilities, and an exhausting day is achievable with the proper planning.

Our own perceived risks

Clinical studies have shown a lack of physical activity increases the risk of certain cancers, depression and anxiety, certain cardiovascular diseases; increase BMI; reduce skeletal muscle mass; and increase blood pressure.1 Sitting all day can lead to an increase in insulin levels, which results in an increase in triglycerides, which in turns leads to an increase in fat cells.2 In addition, the the sedentary lifestyle decreases the ability for mitochondria, where fat is burned, to work properly.2 Without exercise these cells can form even on a low-calorie diet. (2) It’s time for dental professionals to beat the risks!

Make a weekly plan

When you start your week, determine what time of day is best for your workout. This may be before work, after work, or even on a lunch break. Research confirms that determining what time of day and activities you will be performing increases your chance of success.3 Meal prepping is key to implementing a healthy lifestyle when working full time. This allows for properly portioned food and healthy eating on the go. Planning the menu is simple with resources like and In my experience, meal prepping helps you avoid overeating and overspending on foods throughout the week.

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Get creative

Doing calf raises while sterilizing instruments is a great way to build muscle while being productive. Squatting during each film on an FMX is effective in burning calories, toning the legs, and avoiding walking into scatter radiation. Create a Fitbit challenge in the office; it’s a great tool for marketing and getting the team healthy. Rotate between standing and sitting while treating hygiene patients, this reduces stress on the back and allows for more mobility of the muscles.

Find a workout buddy

Getting back into the gym routine can be challenging. Having a workout buddy is a great way to spend quality time while sweating it out! Studies conducted by Indiana University found that couples that worked out separately had a dropout rate of 43% after one year, compared to 6.3 who worked out together.4

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Identify your limitations

Do not buy foods you cannot resist—for instance if you love chocolate and know you can’t eat it just once a week don’t let it enter your house. If you hate working out at the gym invest in at-home workout videos to increase your success. Apps such as Sworkit allow you to work out from home with a guided trainer for free. Remember, this is your health, so invest in your body. It will lead to greater happiness and a longer pain-free career.

The demand on the dental professional’s body during their career is intense. Many are forced to end their careers in the operatory early due to injuries. Investing in one's physical health can allow proper muscle mass to decrease muscle strains for our daily responsibilities. Small changes today can mean a happier, healthy life in the future.

1. Health Risk of a Sedentary Lifestyle. LifeSpan website. Published April 13, 2013. Accessed July 5, 2016.
2. The Metabolic Effects of Your Sedentary Lifestyle. 2016. Life Time Weight Loss website. Published October 26, 2011. Accessed July 5, 2016.
3. Workout and Exercise Tips. Fitness Magazine website. Accessed July 5, 2016.
4. Strength in Numbers: The Importance of Fitness Buddies. Experience Life website. Published July/August 2012. Accessed July 5, 2016.

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Amber Auger, RDH, MPH, is a hygienist with over six years of experience in multiple clinical settings, including facilities abroad. This experience has allowed her to educate dental hygiene students and coach dental teams on periodontal systems to optimize practice growth. She holds a full-time position at an elite dental office in Boston, and owns her own dental consulting company. Amber obtained master’s in public health from the University of New England and her bachelor’s of dental hygiene from the University of New Haven. Amber specializes in pediatric education, periodontal education, and continues to create progressive systems. She is a key opinion leader for several elite dental companies and a published author. She can be contacted at

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