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:
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.
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.
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.