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Why Dental Hygienists require specialized strength training

Updated: Apr 22, 2022

Dental hygienists are inherently prone to muscle imbalances due to the nature of their work. A muscle imbalance, when you have uneven strength between different muscle groups, is most often the underlying reason for pain and injury.

While exercise helps…certain exercises like one size all fitness will not fix this! Beachbody, Yoga, Pilates, or CrossFit will not correct any muscle imbalances. In fact, these types of fitness can actually worsen your imbalance thus leading to further pain and discomfort.

So, while engaging in regular exercise is crucial, it is essential that you are training efficiently to strengthen certain muscles along with their stabilizers. This post is going to allow you to better understand what type of exercises will improve your physical health—not make it worse.


Strengthen to lengthen

When you have an imbalance, one muscle becomes stronger, due to overuse, which then leads the muscle to be short and tight. This leads to increased tension and pain. Ouch. This tightness also affects the muscles that surround it by pulling on it and the opposing muscle becomes weakened. Not good.

But by properly strength training, you will lengthen your muscle to achieve your body’s natural alignment and posture while also improving flexibility and range of motion to avoid injuries.

Example: when your arm is abducted during the scaling of a patient, your supraspinatus and deltoid become stronger, and the stabilizing muscles of the shoulder become weaker.

Exercises such as front/lateral raises, shoulder presses, and upright rows will only make things worse. Instead, we need to focus on a few key things to ensure we are working the proper muscle (groups):

1. Strengthen the weak muscles. For the example above this includes the lower traps and serratus anterior

2. Incorporate unilateral exercises like a single arm pulldown and single arm banded punches

3. Incorporate exercises in different planes of motion, such as rotation/anti rotation movements. I like half kneeling banded rotations

One size fits all fitness does not include these types of exercises, but they can be done through a specialized strength training program. My Dumbbells for Dentistry program is designed specifically for this. Click here to schedule a call to learn more.

Work the posterior muscles

With all the fitness industry “noise” in the world as I like to call it, people think that all types of fitness are created equal. This is completely FALSE. If you do not follow a progressive program to strengthen these muscles, your body is not going to be able to sustain your career as a Hygienist for very long (at least not very comfortably).

**Important caveat** women start to lose muscle mass around the age of 30 so strength training is the number one form of exercise that you need to be doing!!

Strength training is not:

  • bodyweight exercises

  • HIIT

  • random exercises with dumbbells that your fitness instructor tells you to do

This type of exercising will not build stronger muscles and you certainly will not be working the appropriate muscles efficiently.

Let me explain.

The problem with one size fits all programs is that they focus a lot on squats, presses, heck even crunches. Hygienists do NOT need to prioritize these types of movements!!

Your strength program needs to prioritize the posterior muscles, aka the muscles on your backside. Your back, glutes, and hamstrings…these are all of the muscle groups you need to specifically target.

With that said, you can’t just throw in random exercises like rows and glute bridges and call it a day. Training to strengthen muscles is a science and programming exercises must be done strategically and methodically.

So how can I tell if I am strength training the right muscles?

My advice is: if you are going to participate in one size fits all fitness, you need to ALSO incorporate strength training 2-3 days per week. Be sure that your strength exercises are programmed by a Certified Personal Trainer and that they first check your body’s posture and movement patterns prior to providing any exercises. I do this for free, click here to schedule your assessment.


To physically thrive in your career as a Hygienist, it’s essential that you prioritize taking care of your body through strength training. Not only will you correct any current imbalances you may have, but you can also prevent future imbalances from happening.

This will allow you to practice pain and injury free, increase your productivity and improve your overall well-being. BONUS: strength training will also ensure that your body can move pain free outside of the operatory as well. So just like it's important to have strong, healthy teeth, it’s important to have strong, healthy muscles :]

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