Is it possible to ever be prepared for the unexpected? Do you ever think about the impact of accidents and injuries on your ability to practise dentistry?
Accidents at home, in the surgery, at university or while you are out, could all affect your ability to treat patients and may not be something you’ve thought about being prepared for.
As a dentist you may be more cautious about undertaking some of the potentially more dangerous leisure and sporting activities, such as rock climbing, mountain biking, skiing and horse riding. You may also have decided not to participate at a more competitive level because of the risk of an injury, and the impact that could have on your everyday working life.
You can be knowledgeable, experienced and prepared for certain types of injuries like such sporting ones, but have you ever thought about how even the most basic of household chores or everyday activities could also have an impact on your ability to practice?
The Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents (RoSPA), a UK charity that have been promoting accident prevention for nearly 100 years, indicates that more than 14,000 people die due to an accident every year in the UK1, and while that is obviously the most severe outcome from an accident there are still millions of people every day that experience an unexpected incident.
Every year in the UK more than 6,000 people die in accidents just in their homes and 2.7 million turn up at accident and emergency departments for help. More accidents happen at home than anywhere else, and the living room seems to be the favourite. Falls are also the most common type of accidents, and the risk of these increases with age.2
11% of the amount we paid in claims to females dentists last year was for accidents, and this is the highest proportion in the last six or so years, with even more at 14% of male claims paid last year. These claims include nearly £44,000 for recreational and sports related activities; nearly £55,000 for accidents around the home and garden; over £115,000 for road traffic accidents; and over £200,000 for various fractures.3
Accidents can vary from the more predictable sporting or traffic related incidents, to the totally unexpected trips, falls and entanglements, from the unusual through to those from perceived harmless pursuits. Whatever they are caused through they could force you to take time off sick.5
A few examples of dentists’ accidents in 2015:6
For one young dentist, while keeping fit working out at the gym, he managed to fracture his left wrist and needed surgery followed by physiotherapy, and this stopped him practising for three months. Another dentist managed to severely lacerate their left hand on Christmas day cooking Christmas dinner, so not only spoilt their Christmas with a long wait at A&E for several stitches, but also had them out of action until the first week of January.
Plus, as you can imagine, there are a number of cases of dentists having sporting accidents such as the dentist who was off work for four months with a fractured left foot and ruptured knee ligaments after a rock climbing accident, or the dentist who fractured their left ankle playing badminton.
The impact of these injuries
If you are at dental school you may have to retake a year if you are off too long, and as a young dentist you may find that you experience a loss of clinical skills in your time away from practice as you are less experienced than your older colleagues. Also if you can’t work for a short or longer period of time, you may find there are financial consequences because if you aren’t working, you aren’t earning, but the bills still need to be paid.
All accidents are generally unexpected but there are things you can do to minimise the chances and certainly if they do occur, minimise the impact on your lifestyle and work both financially and personally.
The RoSPA actually provide information sheets to raise awareness of the most common accidents and what you can do to prevent them, such as in your home with leaflets on fire safety, electrical safety, heating and cooking; safety glass, safety with medicines and cleaners, and DIY and garden safety. This may sound obvious, but these are the most common types of accidents for all of us.7
The RoSPA also have seasonal preventive tips; with those relating to spring, among others, being gardening and electrical safety checklists, as we venture outdoors with the weather getting a little better, as well as barbecue and swimming safety.7
Researchers are forever trying to find ways to minimise the more commons types of accidents such as those on the road although it doesn’t always work: The New Scientist reported at the end of last year, that self-drive cars are experiencing more accidents than cars with human drivers, even though the objective is the opposite!8
And if an accident does happen, the UK website ‘First Aid for Life’ suggests that good quality first aid training plays a crucial role in empowering us all in dealing with injuries, as it gives us not only the skills, but the confidence if an accident does happen. They state that ‘Keeping calm, understanding how to recognise and prioritise life threatening injuries and knowing what to do in the first critical seconds can make the difference between life and death.’ So it is important to keep your training up to date.
As a dentist you may be more conscious than other professionals of the impact of accidents and injuries but with a little knowledge and being prepared it could make the difference…
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