I remember back in dental hygiene school studying Microbiology, Psychology, Periodontology and Anatomy. My least favorite was Anatomy mixed with microbiology and chemistry. It seemed nearly impossible to remember all of the muscles, tissues and bones, let alone the microbiology of each and every cell and its composition in the body. As a student, I often marveled at the amount of anatomy dental hygienists had to learn. After all, our work was in the mouth. Surely, knowing the teeth, head and neck should be more than sufficient.
Nope. We had to learn about the entire body, from head to toe.
Every organ, every bone, every cell was meticulously studied. What dental hygiene student didn’t consider going on to be a doctor after learning of the material required to become a dental hygienist? While as a dental hygiene student, I recall telling my medical doctor how stressed I was because of school and he asked, “From your dental hygiene program?” He said it in a mocking way, as if the curriculum was nothing compared to becoming that of a doctor. Perhaps true, but it didn’t lessen my load.
The one thing that we didn’t study much, if any, in our dental hygiene curriculum, was the importance of ergonomics. Poor ergonomics over time can physically and mentally challenge a person. I say that because after practicing as a dental hygiene for nearly 25 years, I have arthritis in the neck and am chronically in pain; only the level of pain changes daily. If only I wore loupes, sat up straight and if a patient was too challenging, know my limits and let it go. None of the above happened and I am paying the price now.
There’s another component to this, and that is of the health of our fascia. The tissue that holds our bodies together from head to toe, attaching muscles and ligaments to bone; giving shape and structure. A healthy fascia is good for stability and shapes the muscle, tendons and joints. Everything in the body is wrapped in fascia.
Let’s look at the microbiology of fascia:
Fascia is made up of fibrous tissues including protein fibers and elastic fibers that help hold everything together. Cells include Fibroblasts (build fibers) and Myofibroblasts (help fascia contract). Fascia is mostly water, making up ¾ of the fascia. Hyaluronic Acid and a substance called GAG (Glucosaminoglycans) holds the water in place.
If you look at Fascia under a microscope it would look like a feather; one long stem with individual filaments branching off the stem and more filaments branching off of those. Within this web work is where water is held.
When fascia is dehydrated, it hardens and becomes sticky, forming adhesions. An unhealthy fascia causes stiffness, inflammation and pain. If the fascia’ s GAG is too thick, water will not be able to penetrate thus leaving thirsty, depleted cells, from head to toe. Drinking water will have little effect in quenching your fascia’s water supply due to the denseness of the fascia.
How do we maintain a healthy fascia? The short answer is through movement and hydration. Every time you move it’s like wringing out a sponge, we wring out our fascia. Remember the old saying, you rest you rust!
Over the course of time practicing dental hygiene, my fascia molded to how I was sitting and standing. Many days I spent in a letter C bent over a patient in a wheel chair or one who couldn’t lay back. After many years of practicing in that way my fascia became my personality.
Don’t allow this to happen to you. If you are new in the field, more than likely you graduated with a pair of Loupes, classes on the importance of ergonomics and a long promising career in dental hygiene. Good news is besides moving and hydrating, you can keep your body and fascia healthy through:
Fascia encapsulates our entire bodies, from head to toe. This tissue that holds everything together has nerves just like your skin. Additionally, it is known to store our emotions. Very little studies have been done on this topic. I am hopeful in the future that will change. As dental professionals, it is important to know that posture during the work day becomes your personality. What does your personality look like?
“I wasn’t paying attention. I wasn’t moving my neck because it hurt and it hurt because I wasn’t moving it.”