Is Dentistry Draining You? 5 Steps to Fight Burnout and Reignite Your Passion

Thomas Monahan Bill Claytor
2 weeks ago

Burnout in dentistry is on the rise. For most dentists, it's not a matter of if you will experience burnout in your dental career but when.  

Survey data from the 2023 ADA Council on Communications Trend Report found that more than 40% of dentists felt defeated, wanted to quit dentistry, or did not want to go to work in the six months leading up to the survey, with these feelings being more common in dentists 44 years and younger.  

Furthermore, more than 90% of dentists reported feeling some type of stress about their careers, with middle-career dentists experiencing stress about insurance reimbursement and younger dentists feeling stress about debt, especially student loans.  

Does this sound familiar? 

Here are the five immediate steps you can take to start combating burnout: 

1. Control your schedule 

  • Research indicates that dentists are more stressed when running behind schedule than when dealing with difficult or demanding patients. When evaluating your schedule, reduce less valuable and highly frustrating procedures and instead prioritize high-value and high-energy procedures. Work with your front desk to assist with the scheduling organization, so you’re not shouldering all the weight.  

2. Minimize debt 

  • Develop a plan for repayment. Being debt-free is worth it! Routinely pay on any student loans, no matter the amount. Do not make rash money decisions or questionable investments. Obtain input on money matters from the financial and practice experts. 

3. Do not isolate - Ask for help 

  • Burnout thrives in isolation. When you’re feeling overwhelmed and discouraged, it’s tempting to withdraw from colleagues, friends, and family. But remember, imperfection is not a sign of weakness; it’s simply part of being human. Everyone faces challenges, and seeking help is a sign of strength, not a character flaw. Asking for help could be by talking to a trusted colleague or mentor, accessing resources and support groups, and even seeking professional help.  

4. Engage with the dental community/collegial support 

  • Burnout occurs when your energy is depleted, you don’t have much interest in people, and you don’t really feel like you are very effective at what you do. The opposite of burnout is engagement. Emotional exhaustion is replaced with energy, depersonalization is replaced with involvement, and reduced personal accomplishment is replaced with efficacy. Interacting with dentists who have high energy in dentistry can help inspire that energy in you.  

5. Take care of yourself and your family 

  • Establish boundaries with staff and patients by communicating clear expectations about appointment times, after-hours communication and emergency procedures. Make a clean break from work when you leave the office, prioritizing activities that bring you joy and fostering strong social connections through hobbies and time with loved ones. Remember, it's okay to say no sometimes. Focus on what you can control and learn to let go of the rest. 

​By taking proactive steps like managing your schedule, prioritizing financial wellness, seeking support, and maintaining a healthy work-life balance, you can significantly reduce your risk of burnout and cultivate a fulfilling and sustainable dental career. Remember, dentistry is a rewarding profession, and with some effort, you can ensure it stays that way for you.  

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