In all my work with dental professionals and the massive amount of reading I do around the topic of stress management, I have found consistently four really big factors that influence stress levels and the data to go with it.
Feeling of control: You can call this control, autonomy or ownership. What this comes down to is one’s feeling of value and respect for the education and training they put into ascertaining their position. When a dental professional feels demeaned in spite of this, their stress levels go up. For example, dentists who feel they ‘usually’ have control over their work environment are ‘somewhat satisfied’ (50.5%) in their positions (1,2). Of the same group, 9.1% were ’unsatisfied’. Those dentists responding with ‘sometimes’ or ‘rarely’ have control of their work environment had higher perceived stress levels and lower job satisfaction with 54.4% ‘somewhat satisfied’ and 29.6% ‘unsatisfied’ (1,2). Ouch!
Hours worked per week: Dentistry is demanding. There is a cycle that happens the more hours you put in: physical pains, emotionally tired, mentally drained- and around it goes. Dental pros who report severe stress levels work on average 39.7 hours per week. Those claiming moderate stress levels work 36.2 hours and light stress is 31.9 hours per week (1,3). Says something about going slow to go fast.
Position: I’ve worked with both private practice docs and employee practitioners and I can tell you for certain, the later group shares more struggles and talks about higher stress levels than the former. Studies capture this as well. Of sole proprietors, 57.2% are ‘very satisfied’ while only 35.8% of employee dentists report the same (1). When looking at responses of ‘somewhat satisfied’ to ‘unsatisfied’ the proportion of dentists changes where 42.9% of sole proprietors answered and an overwhelming 64.2% of employee dentists (1). As the argument for DSOs and corporate dentistry rages on, these numbers clearly tell a story.
Sleep: If you are sleeping less than 7 hours a night your risk for severe stress more than doubles against those peers getting more than 7 hours sleep, 19.5% and 8.1% respectfully (1). Moderate stress levels were comparable between the two groups with 64.9% and 68.5%. Those that perceived their job the least stressful was the group sleeping 7+ hours a night with 23.4% claiming ‘light stress’ versus that of their tired counterparts at 15.6% (1,3,4). Of the dentists with moderate/severe stress levels, 21.4% of them also had difficulty sleeping or staying asleep (2).
HERE’S WHAT YOU CAN DO TODAY…
Work less, sleep more and take ownership of your position no matter your title.
- American Dental Association. 2003 Dentist Well-Being Survey. Chicago, 2005.
- Edlin R. Avoiding the ill effects of stress. TheYoungDentist.com. 2011.
- Rada R, Leong C. Stress, burnout, anxiety and depression among dentists. JADA 2004;135:788-793.
- Kay E, Lowe J. A survey of stress levels, self-perceived health and health-related behaviors of UK dental practitioners. Br Dent J 2007:204;E19.