Patients are not the only ones who feel pain! Dentists must take steps to manage their own stress before dealing with that of their patients. The principle of putting your own oxygen mask on first applies here.
Dentists clearly suffer from work-related stress¹. In performing their jobs each day, they rely on both a vast body of knowledge and precise manual skills. They must remain extremely concentrated while working under pressure from the clock, aware that more patients are filling the waiting room, even more during this COVID period.
The stressful life of a dentist
Most dentists treat 45+ patients each week during appointments lasting from 20 to 40 minutes. As they manage this heavy workload, they are subject to numerous occupational stress factors: COVID constraints, noise, postural positioning or the management with often anxious patients.
Symptoms are telling: 60% of general dental practitioners report being nervous, tense or depressed, and having difficulty sleeping. Backache is reported by 68% of dentists². As every dentist knows, musculoskeletal disorders, tension and stress may reduce productivity in their practice.
Day-to-day operations with staff
The relationship with dental staff is also crucial to a smooth working environment. Team members are a dentist’s best support system because they see all sides of the dental practice, from the perspective of both the patient and the dentist. Dealing with staff issues is often a source of stress for practitioners, simply because managing people is not supposed to be a dentist’s core skill and management training is not always taught as a part of the dental school curriculum.
Managing work-related stress
As a key part of a complete pain management approach, addressing the practitioners’ own pain requires the right professional environment – calming and mood-enhancing music are not just for patients! The first step in coping with stress is to recognize the factors that cause it. And, because stress feeds on stress, it is important to focus on patient interaction – by using a calming voice, for example, and taking the time to reassure anxious patients. Patients have hyper-acute perceptions, and no one wants a tense dentist probing their teeth!
1/2- Source: ‘It’s difficult being a dentist’: stress and health in the general dental practitioner. HL Myers. Br Dent J. 2004.