Our dentists continue to report a steady stream of patients, and that’s a good thing. High volume means more profit, more money to put away for a rainy day, more hiring opportunities...or does it? If you’re booked out for months, and you’re handling a lot of those cases, how much longer do you think you can sustain this stressful pace?
Dentistry requires demanding workloads, long hours, and a high-pressure environment that can take a toll on even the most dedicated dental professionals.
Understanding Dental Burnout
We’ve seen what happens when dentists are focused on quantity over quality — they start to feel the burn. Dental burnout is a state of emotional, physical, and mental exhaustion caused by excessive and prolonged stress. Common factors contributing to burnout include:
High patient load: Constantly handling a large number of patients, leads to time constraints and potential quality compromises.
Work-Life Imbalance: The demanding nature of running a dental practice can disrupt personal life, leading to increased stress and decreased job satisfaction.
Perfectionism and High Expectations: Dentists strive for excellence, but unrealistic expectations can result in feelings of inadequacy and stress.
Financial Pressures: Managing the financial aspects of running a dental practice, including paying off debts and building for retirement, can pile on the stress load.
How do you know if you’re approaching the danger zone? Burnout reveals itself in several ways, and recognizing the symptoms is crucial for early invention. The most common red flags include:
Constant fatigue + exhaustion
Feeling emotionally detached from colleagues + patients
Reduced job satisfaction enthusiasm
Increased irritability + mood swings
Decline in productivity + performance
Difficulty sleeping + focusing
A study of 3500 dentists, conducted by the Journal of the American Dental Association, revealed that 38% of dentists were anxious and worried, while 34% stated they are physically or emotionally exhausted. Two of the many reasons reported include long working hours and time pressure.
If you’re burning the midnight oil, cramming in as many patients as possible, you’re most likely also neglecting your own health, wealth, and happiness.
How do I get ahead of burnout and live the life I want?
You can take steps today to take back your time and take better care of yourself and your practice. The first step is to choose to make a change. You can do this by setting realistic goals for yourself and your practice, and prioritize tasks based on urgency and importance. Here are a handful of steps you can implement to take back control and kick burnout to the curb:
Delegate Responsibilities: Administrative tasks should be handled by staff members, allowing you to focus on your patients and other clinical aspects.
Embrace Work-Life Balance: You have to make time for hobbies, exercise, and spending quality time with loved ones. This recharges you physically and mentally, helping you maintain a healthy balance.
Learn to Say No: This is a tough one as a lot of individuals want to help anywhere and everywhere they can. But it’s not realistic to overcommit to patients or take on additional responsibilities when you don’t have the bandwidth.
Seek Peer Support: C0nnecting with fellow dentists or joining professional support groups can go a long way when it comes to your mental health. You can share experiences, give and receive advice, and discover coping mechanisms.
Invest in CE: Staying updated on the latest advancements in dentistry can help rekindle your passion, or help you discover a new niche.
Take a Break: Downtime is not overrated. Quick breaks that allow you to relax, refresh, and regain focus make you a better clinician.
Employ Stress-Reduction Techniques (for your team, too): Mindfulness, meditation, or yoga are great additions to your routine as all help to manage stress.
Seek Professional Help: If you can’t stifle burnout on your own, or it persists to the point you feel paralyzed, consulting a mental health professional for guidance and support can be beneficial in getting you back on track.
Dental burnout is no laughing matter. But it can be conquered, or at least kept at bay with awareness and proactive self-care. Once you’ve maintained that ideal balance, you can get back to doing dentistry. Taking care of yourself is the first step.
If you’re interested in learning more about one of our doctors who gained control of his practice after decades of grueling work, then check out our complimentary report, The Wealthiest Dentist. This popular piece follows Dr. Tom Peterson on his journey to an ideal work-life balance. He’s producing more, working less, and “burnout” is not in his vocabulary.