Ask the Dentist: Why are dentists feeling the stress?

Dentists are feeling the pressure and government needs to do more to help, says Lucy Stock of Gentle Dental Care

Workplace pressures have increased for almost all dentists in recent years
Workplace pressures have increased for almost all dentists in recent years

THE heat is rising in the dental kitchen as a poll of dentists has unearthed that 40 per cent of them are considering retiring or leaving the profession within the next five years.

Workplace pressures have increased in the past three years, said 86 per cent of respondents to the Dental Defence Union (DDU) survey.

Dentists were turning to coping mechanisms to deal with the intense workplace, including reduced hours, mindfulness, breathing exercises and breaks in the fresh air to cope.

A fifth had experienced a patient complaint or safety incident and a similar proportion had been abused or threatened (19 per cent).

Complaints are highly stressful, with many going on for years and ending up unsubstantiated. They can have the opposite effect than desired, with a reduction in care due to stress, fewer treatments being offered and people leaving or not entering the professions in the first place.

Encouragingly, nearly all respondents (93 per cent) said patients and colleagues treated them with respect.

John Makin, head of the DDU said: "Our members are a resilient bunch. They're used to dealing with the extreme demands of their roles.

"However, you can only stretch a piece of elastic so far. Pressures are intensifying, caused by a number of issues outside of dental professionals' control. These include an increase in treatment needs caused by the pandemic, rising patient expectations and treatment and referral delays.

"We are calling on the government to put the necessary resources and support in place to reduce delays and meet treatment demand. This will help to reduce the stress experienced by dental professionals. It will also help them to treat patients safely and to a good standard."

There's no doubt that dentistry is a demanding field; we are biological craftspeople honing our skills over many years to be able to solve a patient's dental problems while at the same time rebuilding small parts of the body, a biological art form.

We all need healthcare providers and the stresses on all have never been more apparent. Kindness and understanding from all sides go a long way to being able to deliver high levels of health care.