Posted by Amy Carbone on Oct 27, 2021 9:00:00 AM
Between the time, pressure, and other demands of dentistry, you could face a level of stress that often exceeds that of the general population.
What are the most common stressors for dentists? What are the best ways to cope with those stressors? Read on to find out.
Statistics: Stress Among Dentists
The idea that dentists cope with a lot of stress in their careers is backed up by several studies:
For example, the Oral Health Group conducted a study about the level and type of stress that dentists face. The results show dentists are typically under stress from a variety of sources, which often pile up and become overwhelming, negatively contributing to overall health.
One example from that same study found the number one cause of death for dentists is stress-related cardiovascular disease. Coronary disease is also 25% more common in dentists than it is in the rest of the population. Dentists are developing heart concerns, having heart attacks, and experiencing other coronary issues at rates that are well above what's typically seen in other stressful professions and the general population.
In addition to heart-related problems, dentists are also 2.5 times more likely to experience mental health issues such as anxiety, breakdowns, depression, and more, according to Oral Health Group.
Each of these health concerns make it increasingly important to create strategies to decrease their impact.
Stressor #1: Confinement
When spending time in small, indoor operatories for most of the day, where the average space is just 7’x9’, it’s easy to feel confined and stressed. When you’re not in the exam room, you’re likely spending time in your office or another area of the building, which can eventually lead to feelings of confinement. Staying within the same space may eventually make coming to work a stressful task that negatively affects your mental health.
Working long hours may also lead to sitting for extended periods of time while performing procedures and otherwise interacting with patients. In the early mornings and evenings when you’re outside of work, you may be too exhausted for any physical activity. The combination of these can have negative impacts on physical health.
It’s important to create a balance between your dental practice and other areas of your life. Take some time for yourself when you can—whether that means taking a full lunch break, getting outside on a quick 5-minute walk, or getting a good workout in after work—to help alleviate stress and improve your health.
Stressor #2: Expenses
If you feel like your dental practice, livelihood, and the jobs of other people are all riding on you, you may feel intense pressure to make sure everything is running smoothly all the time. From your practice overhead costs to remaining dental school loans to new equipment purchases, expenses can add stress to your life. Often, larger outlays need to be financed and carrying debt adds yet another layer.
To help keep your financial stressors in check, you can look into a multitude of insurance coverages — for example, business overhead protection — for predictability. By working with an experienced financial advisor who is familiar with the issues you’re facing, you can prepare for the unexpected and know that your family and practice will be protected, even if you are unable to generate income.
Stressor #3: Time
No matter how large your team is, time is a limited resource.
The stress of limited time can become even more intense if you’re the only dentist in the practice. Even with your hygiene staff handling cleanings and more minor issues, the vast majority of the dental care offered at your practice is your responsibility. If you’re exhausted from keeping everything moving, you may not be in the best frame of mind to make optimal decisions or provide care.
This makes it critical that you consciously manage your time and create a schedule that works for you. By spacing out appointments and being realistic about your time, you can help lower your stress levels.
While it’s natural to want to take a lot of appointments and accommodate patients' needs, it’s vital that you create space in your schedule to manage your stress level, health, and mental acuity.
Planning for the Future
Keeping your practice running smoothly, your staff happy, and your patients satisfied with your care are essential to the maintenance of your business—but they must be balanced with taking care of yourself. If stress prevents you from looking forward beyond this very moment, your health and that of your business may be in jeopardy.
By creating goals and planning for the future, you can do more to protect yourself, your business, and your patients. Working with an experienced advisor is a key part of that.
Speak with an advisor who understands the needs of dentists to start laying out a plan that can produce ease and peace of mind.