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Dentist June 14, 2024

How Dental Professionals Can Navigate Burnout

Occupational burnout is a syndrome caused by prolonged emotional fatigue and chronic stress. The CareQuest Institute for Oral Health reports that dental practitioners deal with many stressors like neck and back pain, exhaustive schedules, finances, litigation threats, strenuous patients, and errors which explains why 58% of dentists reported weekly feelings of work-related burnout. Many dentists find burnout unpredictable making it hard to prevent, so staying informed is important when managing this issue.  

While professional burnout is caused by workplace factors, it can cause serious repercussions for peoples’ personal lives. Those experiencing burnout may experience some mental, emotional, and even physical symptoms causing many to feel unrecognizable to themselves. It’s also important to note that oral health providers are more at risk for alcohol and drug abuse.  

Continue reading as we discuss some of the causes, preventive measures, management tools, and recovery tactics needed for combating dental burnout.  

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The Primary Causes of Dental Burnout 

Misconceptions surrounding dentists have caused mass animosity towards the profession, making dental professionals less likely to seek help. Dentistry is assumed to be a wealthy industry, but immense student loans and financially demanding practices have put many dental professionals into crippling debt. To combat strained finances many dentists, extend their work hours, which creates a poor work-life balance leaving little time for self-care and support. 114 million Americans have no dental insurance, facing dentists with the tough decision of whether to treat expensive dental emergencies that patients can't afford. 

Patient relationships are hard to manage due to the anxiety of patients and practitioners. Oral health professionals tend to be apprehensive about forming connections with patients due to fear of potential harm in the future. Dentistry can be isolating with limited free time and superficial patient relationships, but many don't consider the isolating workspaces in which dental professionals operate. Most dentists practice alone in confined quarters which prompts loneliness.  

Dental practitioners are twice as likely compared to the general population to develop anxiety and depression. Not only is this profession emotionally taxing but physically grueling as well. The National Library of Medicine reports that 90% of dentists experience musculoskeletal pain from consistent unnatural positions. 

Dental professionals should be educated on the causes and indicators of burnout so here are some of the mental, emotional, and physical symptoms for oral health practitioners to look out for in themselves and their peers.  

These symptoms include mental challenges such as isolation, impaired judgement and detachment; emotional issues like increased irritability, cynicism, and feeling overwhelmed; and physical problems such as excessive substance use, sleep disturbances, and muscle tension.

 

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Types of Dental Specialties and What They Do


Preventative Strategies for Dental Burnout

With certain preventative practices put in place burnout doesn't have to be inevitable. Prioritizing self-care to rejuvenate your mind and body can ward off mental depletion. It’s also imperative to build a community and strong support system because shouldering life's challenges alone isn't sustainable. Practicing mindfulness and self-awareness allows you to spot premature warning signs and act accordingly.

Self-Prioritization 
It’s easy in a work-centric society to forget how to put yourself first, but self-care is crucial for longevity. Healthy sleep habits, regular exercise, connection to nature, nutritious diets, and consistent socialization are simple modifications you can make to your lifestyle. Consider setting aside 15 minutes a day to recenter your mind with guided mediation, or express pent-up emotions in a journal, and even self-regulate with breathwork by breathing in for 4 seconds, holding for 4, and exhaling for 6 then repeat. 
Optimize your schedule by weighing your activities and responsibilities on a scale of one to ten by value. Monitor who/where you're spending your time and your mental state before, during, and after. Adjust your schedule accordingly by weeding out unproductive uses of energy and utilize schedule gaps for moments of self-care. Don't be afraid to delegate tasks if they're not serving you, learning to say no is an amazing gift you can give yourself. Don’t wait for others’ approval to make changes in your life, and advocate for healthy adjustments in the workplace. 

Community
Demanding workloads can often be prioritized over personal relationships, so many lack strong community once burnout settles in and they're needed the most. Make time for loved ones, and practice self-care to be fully present when you're together. Often those closest to you will notice alarming changes in behavior before you do. 
Forging personal relationships at work is important as well to have a sense of escape and understanding during grueling hours. Looking out for signs of burnout in colleagues contributes to an efficient workplace, and checking in with peers makes others less reluctant to seek help. Confiding in trusted professionals can be beneficial for reducing stigma and shame when your support system cannot. 

Mindfulness
Acknowledging your thoughts and feelings without judgment is an essential practice to maintain. Mindfulness isn't about erasing negative emotions but confronting them so you can appropriately act on them. Become present and self-aware so you can accurately and responsibly handle life's challenges. 
Resetting expectations for people and events in your life to mirror reality can ease frustration and disappointment. Many dentists report having previous expectations for the profession that don't align with reality, so adopting new outlooks could be beneficial. There are some personality traits more at risk for burnout. If you recognize some of the traits listed below within yourself, consider prioritizing burnout prevention. At risk personality traits include perfectionism, over-commitment, difficulty maintaining deep connections, lack of coping skills, sleep problems, being overly critical, poor work-life balance, and antisocial tendencies. 

Preventing Dental Professional Burnout with Locum Tenens Solutions

AMN Healthcare offers personalized locum tenens solutions which can help diminish and prevent burnout. Locum tenens jobs provide more scheduling freedom with temporary positions. They allow you to support a healthy work-life balance with a rut free lifestyle.
Whether right out of training, mid-career, or beyond, this path is increasingly popular among healthcare professionals. Partnering with AMN Healthcare will deliver the flexibility and support you need to navigate your career, giving you the unmatched freedom to choose from a vast network of nationwide locum tenens opportunities that match your unique goals, regardless of level or specialty. 

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Support Resources for Dental Professionals

AMN Healthcare dedicates itself to supporting dental professionals in their pursuit of fulfilling and sustainable careers. We strive to provide ample support for dental professionals so go to Healthcare Staffing Company  for resources and online communities. 

If you or someone you know is struggling don't hesitate to call the national suicide hotline (call or text 988 or 1-800-273-8255 (voice or text) or visit (https://suicidepreventionlifeline.org.) You can also call the 24/7 confidential Dental Practitioner support hotline number: 1800-377-700. For more support visit Dentist Well-Being Program Directory - American Dental Association (ada.org) or email dentalpractice@ada.org to receive a confidential phone call from a sincere individual ready to help. 

 

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