While some offices are getting ready to return to in-person work, a lot of us will be working from home for a while, if not forever. If your work from home situation has been extended, now might be the time to migrate from the kitchen counter or the couch to an ergonomically healthy spot. Your body, including your teeth, will be glad you did!
Your oral health is connected to your entire body, including your ergonomics. That's why, if you're working from home, or even at a desk, all day, it's important to check your body's alignment. Poor posture can lead to clenching and grinding your teeth.
How do I know if I have bad posture or if my desk ergonomics are bad?
Take a second and check in with your body. Are your shoulders hunched? Is your spine curved into a C-shape? Those are signs that your setup isn't working for your body.
“Most of my clients come to me because they are experiencing pain while they're working and they’re not quite sure why. They usually try to make adjustments themselves but when nothing changes or their pain gets worse they find me to help. It’s unfortunate because pain is a sign of actual damage being done to the body. Ideally you want to take action before signs of pain” says Pricelda Cid founder of ErgoTherapy.
Over time you might start to feel pain in your neck, back, or wrists. Not only is this a drag, it also becomes expensive as you pay for services like a chiropractor or physical therapy to help get things back in line.
How do ergonomics affect my teeth?
Now take a second to check in with your teeth. Ideally your lips are closed, and your teeth are close together but not touching - teeth shouldn't touch while you're at rest. Are your lips open? Breathing through your mouth? Clenching your teeth? Your work setup might be to blame.
After working on a computer for several hours with poor posture, your head starts to move forward adding tension to your neck and shoulder muscles. This tension causes a few things to happen in your mouth:
- This forward-leaning position and tension causes your upper and lower teeth to make contact.
- Leaning forward can restrict your airway which causes you to breathe through your mouth … hello bad breath 🤭
- The tension can also cause you to clench and grind your teeth during the day and even at night.
Iman Zayed, a hygienist at Wally, shares "These issues aren't just painful, they can get expensive. If your tooth cracks, for example, you might need a root canal, crown, or even an implant. That all adds up.The best thing is nip clenching and grinding in the bud, especially if it's related to posture," shares Iman Zayed, RDH.
What can I do to improve my ergonomics? Should I buy a posture corrector?
Before you drop hundreds of dollars on expensive posture correctors, standing desks, and ergonomic chairs, check in to see where your alignment might be off.
Get in your regular working spot and look at a few key areas of alignment including:
- Are your ears over your shoulders?
- Is the desk slightly below your elbow height?
- Are your feet flat on the ground?
Our friends at ErgoTherapy have a great (and free!), comprehensive workplace ergonomics checklist that you can download here. If anything is out of place, chances are your workplace could use an ergonomic update.
“The beauty about ergonomics is that small changes make BIG impacts. The nerves and tendons in our bodies are so tiny that the smallest change can make someone feel way better within days if not immediately after the proper change happens. No need to remodel,” explains Pricelda.
And don't forget to step away from your work environment (and work!) from time to time. Set a timer and go for a walk to get those legs moving. Not only does it get your blood flowing, it helps your body decompress, literally. Sitting in one position for long periods of time causes your body to decompress on itself.
Still reading? Well, put down this blog piece and get out for a walk 🚶