Dentistry can be a stressful and challenging profession. Teams like yours can often face depression, anxiety and other mental health issues. For Mental Health Awareness Month this May, take some time to get a closer look at why many dentists and their staff face mental health problems and what you can do to improve overall well-being in your office.
The percent of dentists diagnosed with anxiety more than tripled in 2021 compared to 2003, according to the 2021 Dentist Health and Well-Being Survey Report from the American Dental Association (ADA). The ADA also found 13% of the dentists reported that they suffered from depression, while it’s estimated that only 3.8% of the general population is affected.
The challenging, demanding work of a dentist’s office can affect the well-being not just of dentists but of office staff, as well. Dentistry can be an especially stressful profession because dentists and their staff often:
As a dentist, you’re trained to identify oral pathology by clinical evidence, diagnostic testing and a patient’s own account. But identifying mental health problems can be very different. Signs related to mental health issues are most often manifested as behavioral changes or they’re experienced internally by the affected individual in the way he or she thinks and feels.
Common signs and symptoms of someone dealing with depression, anxiety or other common mental health issues include:
These symptoms may increase in severity and frequency over time. In advanced cases, affected individuals may lose their ability to support the team and function in the office.
Make sure you and your staff can talk openly about problems and reach out for help without negative judgment. As an office leader, you can model this behavior by talking openly and honestly about stress and problems you may be experiencing. Remember that your colleagues and staff could be experiencing similar issues, so openly sharing can be comforting and encouraging. If you don’t suffer from mental health problems, work to be empathic and supportive of those who do.
Resources and assistance should be available and accessible, and using them should never threaten someone’s job or reputation. Consider adding an employee assistance program (EAP) to the offered benefits at your practice if you haven’t already.
Here are some tips for self-care during stressful times:
The following free resources can help promote mental health in the dental office:
Other mental health resources include:
The mind, just like the mouth, requires constant care. Optimal mental health is a crucial part of your practice success and your overall well-being. Don’t neglect mental well-being in your office or feel shame or stigma about needing to reach out for help.