Free Demo

Why is Dentistry a Stressful Job?

There is no profession that is a walk in the park, especially if you are running your own business. This applies to Dentistry as well. The difficulties and challenges associated with it make for a really stressful job. Much of the research conducted on mental and physical health of dentists points to how seriously stress and dissatisfaction affect their lives. Stress could be caused by multiple factors, from relationships with patients, working hours, time and scheduling pressure, technical issues, to job or income dissatisfaction.

A survey done by the British Dental Association in 2019 showed that out of the 2,053 respondents, a whopping 54.9% reported that they were experiencing high levels of stress related to their job and nearly half of this number claimed to not be able to cope with this stress. 

Why exactly is dentistry a stressful job? Here are some of the common reasons:

Uncooperative patients

Imagine dealing with patients who are uncooperative, demanding, and not satisfied with what you are doing. It is bound to have a negative impact on your mental health. Every day, dentists are forced to have a cheerful disposition, a cheerful smile and be a thorough professional even in front of downright rude and mean patients. Add to that, patients who do their own research and attempt at-home remedies instead of taking professional help and this creates additional work to undo damage that should not have been done in the first place. Heightened emotions, worry, stress, depression, and anxiety, all naturally build up without a meaningful outlet.

Impact on physical health

Physical labor may seem minimal in the case of dentistry. What anyone pictures when they think about dentists is someone sitting comfortably on a chair while looking into patients’ mouths. The reality is that sitting in the same slouched position while having to constantly hold your arms up and your head down can cause pain and stiffness. The shoulders, arms, neck and back bear the brunt of this. It requires prolonged periods of ensuring that precise work is done without any sudden movements. In fact, Dentistry is considered to be one of the most physically demanding jobs. If the practice is a successful one with a continuous flow of patients, it leaves no time for relaxed breaks, exercise or even a bit of stretching. 

Economic pressure

With the economic environment and increased competition, the possibility of establishing a financially robust practice has become challenging. Dentists could work 24/7 and still may only earn a nominal amount considering that most of the cash flow gets invested back into running the practice. Most dentists are forced to work even during lunch hours due to financial constraints. The low number of breaks that they get to indulge in leaves them completely exhausted by the end of the day. Continuous overtime work and a huge workload could lead to burn-out. 

Confinement or isolation

The work dentists do is confined to a limited amount of physical space. Most dentists spend all of their time working within this space. There is little or no contact with the outside world, which makes them isolated. This also means that they do not have the benefit of regular peer-support that is available to other healthcare practitioners. 

Time pressure

Dentists are forced to go through long hours of exhausting work, which takes time away from any kind of leisure or entertainment and leaves them drained. They need to provide their undivided attention to every single patient as their work involves precise movements to be made with small and delicate tools. As the day progresses though, mental exhaustion and stiffness from prolonged hours of staying in the same position can cause loss of focus. This could mean that the same work could take more and more time to finish as the day moves forward. Additionally, it is quite impossible to predict when urgent care may be needed. If emergency situations arise during a packed day on the job, finding the time to meet all the appointments becomes difficult. Regardless of how well appointments are scheduled each day, one emergency could hijack a whole day’s work. 

Stress of perfection

Dentistry is a profession where even the tiniest of mistakes could have a huge physical and financial impact on both the dentist and the patient. Every step in the procedures done by dentists needs to be carefully curated. In case there are any errors in the services, the problem needs to be rectified as soon as possible. All this must be done while remaining calm and composed so as not to affect the patients. Ensuring that every step of each procedure is done perfectly is a very common reason for stress among dentists. 

Dentistry is undeniably one of the most stressful jobs there is, but it can certainly be made less stressful by following a healthy professional and personal lifestyle. As a first step, separate your work from your personal life; take breaks if needed. Set up sensible working hours with much-needed breaks. Exercise does not always have to be about cardio or HIIT. Simple stretches in between patients or walking on a regular basis within the halls of the practice can also have a positive impact. Improving your working environment can also make a huge difference. Become less isolated and try to share your worries with your fellow colleagues. All this can make dentistry a little less stressful and easier.

Determine Patient Responsibility & Collect Payments Faster

Given the rise in high-deductible payment plans (HDHP) and patients choosing to shoulder more and more of the financial obligations for treatments and services received, determining patient responsibility has become priority for a practice. Instead of relying on insurance providers for payment, practices rely more on their patients to bolster their revenue cycle. They are forced to find ways to collect more of these patient responsibility balances in order to secure maximum revenue. This is not as easy as it would seem. Estimating and collecting patient responsibility involves keeping meticulous records and ensuring on-time follow-up. You do all this while establishing maximum patient satisfaction and them consistently choosing your practice over others and leaving positive reviews.

What is patient responsibility and payment collection?

The portion of a dental bill that the patient must pay out-of-pocket, not from their insurance company, is known as patient responsibility. It is the amount that the patients owe to their practice for dental services rendered. Deductibles and co-pays are perfect examples of this. Payment collection is simply the process of securing the payment.

How can you improve your patient responsibility payment collection?

Keep a payment plan ready

It is always better for practices to keep a payment plan ready. Having a proper payment plan can help you set up a process to follow while attempting to collect on patient responsibility balances. It also reduces the chance of patients defaulting due to them not being aware of their responsibility. Following an established plan will help the patient responsibility collection process go smoothly. Given the complexity and diversity of healthcare plans, it may seem difficult to create estimates for each patient, but it cannot be avoided.

Don’t tiptoe around payment conversations

A conversation about patient payment responsibility may be uncomfortable to have but tiptoeing around the issue is never a solution. Getting your revenue is ultimately what your aim is. Be clear and direct. Your patients may already be confused and stressed about a lot of things, and you don’t want to make it even more difficult for them. Make sure that you convey the details of their responsibilities in a simple and easy manner. 

Let the patient know in advance about their payment responsibility

Most practices fail to remind their patients of their payment responsibility prior to the services without realizing the impact it could have on their payment collection process. Avoid surprises by informing your patient about their treatment plan and financial commitment right at the beginning. Patients are more inclined to pay when they know in advance exactly how much they owe. Let them know about any deductibles, co-pays, and also give them an approximate estimation of the co-insurance amount. Conveying the probability of there being unexpected changes in the procedures or services is also something you should ideally do, as these changes could also result in changes in the patient’s payment responsibility.

Patients need to be prepared for the expenses that they will incur, for a quicker payment process. You also need to convey the potential for unexpected changes in payment amounts as changes in procedures can cause the final amount to differ. Remember, collecting from a patient requires a lot more effort than collecting from an insurance provider. This effort would magnify in cases where the patients are not aware of their payment responsibility prior to the visits, which is most of the time.

Provide multiple payment options

Having multiple payment options can benefit your practice in a lot of ways. It shows the patients that you are considering their convenience as opposed to simply ensuring that you receive your revenue. Even if your patients don’t have enough money on hand, they can easily opt for any other modes of payment such as debit or credit cards, checks, charge cards and mobile payment apps. This makes the payment process much easier for them and collection smoother for you. 

Collect payments before the patient leaves the practice

Collecting payments at the time of the service is a good rule to follow. It’s always a good idea to get the payment from the patient before they leave the practice. Never leave any of the patient responsibility balances for future, especially if the patients owe more than the insurance provider. This increases the risk of payments going unpaid. In a lot of cases, late attempts to collect the payment can be exceedingly time-consuming and challenging. 

Stay in touch with your patients

Remember to continuously stay in touch with your patients. This not only helps in building a bond with them but also helps in quicker patient payments. After initially informing the patient about their responsibility, make sure that you send reminders so that they don’t miss their payment due dates. Remember that your patients are also busy and paying for one specific service may not always be a priority for them. A reminder may be just what they need. This can help your practice maintain a faster and more efficient payment cycle.

Partner with an RCM Service provider

Focusing on the actual practice may become onerous if you are constantly worrying about patient responsibility. With an RCM service provider by your side, you will not have to worry about any of these as they help you manage all your RCM-related worries, including patient payment collection. Your RCM service provider works closely with your patients and makes sure that the full patient payments are collected on time allowing you to concentrate on the actual dental service.