The first symptom of your upcoming disability as a dentist may be a sore neck or lower back.  The likelihood of developing a spinal injury as a dentist is high. The odd posture that is often required in the performance of dental procedures leads to injury due to repetitive nature of our dental practice. Recognizing the risks upfront is critical in preventing such injuries.

We have previously discussed the need for proactive ergonomics in dental practice and encourage you to practice in a safe and smart manner.THE QUIET DENTAL CAREER KILLER If you ignore this warning you will be doomed to an inevitable orthopedic injury.  Starting with your spine and involving your shoulders and wrists, this is a very well documented risk.  Use the ergonomic training you received in dental school or training available online via the ADA as a start.

Ergonomics are only part of the effort you will need in your quest to have a long dental practice life. A deliberate effort of exercise combined with therapy is necessary.  This may involve physician directed physical therapy or massage therapy completed at your convenience.  Consider yourself like a professional athlete.  They have dedicated trainers to keep them at the peak of physical shape.  You need the same level of care and need o ensure you are always in the best condition for your patients and practice. Routine exercise is very important not only to your physical shape but your overall longevity.  Make a deliberate effort to exercise on a scheduled basis.

Once you begin to develop any symptoms from your shoulders, spine, or wrists; look for a physician to help with your developing conditions management. Rapidly developing conditions or those that definitely interfere with your practice may start you considering becoming either partially or permanently disabled.  We have discussed disability claims in this area previously, and encourage you to carefully document your condition as it develops. You may end up being only partially disabled, but remember you will very likely still be eligible for disability benefits.  Strongly consider consulting with an attorney or firm who specializes in disability law if you have or are developing any severe spinal or orthopedic  problems. See our posting regarding disability insurance.DISABILITY INSURANCE CHALLENGES.

One of the biggest mistakes dentists make is slowly tapering their dental practice over time to due to pain or physical inability to complete some dental procedures. It may become very difficult to prove when you actually become disabled to your disability insurance company.  In addition, your practice may be losing intrinsic value due to your decreased production. A DENTAL PRACTICE IS WORTH most when you are at your peak in production over a 3 year period.  A NEGLECTED dental practice may be worthless if production has bottomed out and few real patients are left in the system.  Many dentists count on the sale of their practice in their retirement plan.  If you are one of those, it is crucial that you make smart decisions regarding your practice sale if you potentially may be facing a disabling illness or condition.

Many dentists are able to work through the pain and have long careers, but not all. Do you want to continue to work in pain or is there another way. As only a suggestion, consider transitioning to another field and still fund your future with your practice sale. If you want to be another of those dental cripples who needs a cane to walk after retirement, think of your options now before it’s too late. Transition while you can. Become an employee of your practice after its sale and work reduced hours or reduce the range of procedure that you perform.  Of course this is as very personal decision and you may think we are totally crazy, but maybe not. We speak from the real world experience of hundreds of disabled dentists.  Please consider these recommendations and make smart decisions for your spouse, family, staff, and patients.

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