Many people don’t realise that Dental Professionals are one of the most at-risk groups for mental health disorders. These include depression, anxiety and the negative effects of stress. Mental health used to be considered a taboo subject within the industry, but now the subject of mental wellbeing is welcomed. So let’s talk about it.
As World Mental Health Day approaches (Sunday 10th October 2021) we want to encourage dentists to be brave and get the help they need and deserve. Anxiety and depression are the most common mental health conditions in the world, so no one is alone in needing help. Around three in ten respondents to a BMA survey had experience of being diagnosed with a mental health condition – nine in ten stated their working environment had contributed to their condition.
In essence, poor mental health can lead to poor overall health. Having a healthy work environment is key to job satisfaction. How can you reduce the likeness of a burnout and improve your mental and physical health?
Make your working environment empowering
The average dentist spends most of his or her life confined to a small, sometimes windowless room. This work is intricate and meticulous and is performed in a small, restricted space. The procedures are both physically and mentally taxing, and as a result can cause strain, circulatory disorders, back troubles and fatigue. It is relatively easy, over a long period of time for a dentist to become emotionally and physically burned out.
Taking breaks outside of your workspace, spending time communicating with colleagues and working sensible hours have proved to be effective in managing the negative physical and mental effects. Develop an open line of communication and having a zero tolerance policy on gossip and negative talk. By doing so, you will decrease the likelihood of a burnout dramatically.
Take back control of your work schedule
Staying on schedule in a busy dental practice is often a chronic cause of stress for dental professionals. It’s easy to get engrossed in your work, and then before you know it you’ve missed the opportunity to take a break. Ensuring that you are taking frequent breaks is important for both mental and physical health, especially when working in repetitive positions. One of the keys to overcoming burnout is to evaluate your workload frequently. Changing your schedule around until you find what works for you is an important part of this and crucial to job satisfaction.
Improve and maintain your physical health
We have already mentioned just how demanding the dental profession is. So if your goal is to not burn out then you must make a commitment to take care of yourself first. Operating at maximum efficiency is a direct result of both mental and physical health. Practicing mindfulness, as well as taking part in light exercise for even 20 minutes per day has been linked to a positive increase to a persons mental and physical state.
To take away
Stress can never be completely eliminated from dentistry. However to be minimised as much as possible and improve your mental health, preventative steps can be taken:
- Improving the working environment at the practice/office
- Becoming less isolated and sharing problems with colleagues and fellow practitioners
- Taking holiday when the pressure starts to build
- Learn how to handle patient anxiety
- Work sensible hours and take time out of each day to have frequent breaks
- Being kinder to yourself and less critical of your efforts
- Taking up regular exercise