In line with National Stress Awareness Day, a survey of dentists in Ireland has revealed increasing levels of burnout among the profession, prompting a leading dental protection organisation to urged the dental community to act urgently to tackle the issue.

The survey by Dental Protection revealed that 44% of dentists in the county do not feel that their personal wellbeing is a priority at work, and 35% have considered leaving the profession for personal wellbeing reasons.

The organisation wants dental professional to take steps to prevent burnout, and support them to stay in practice rather than quit the profession.

Increasing risk of burnout

‘Dentistry can be a very rewarding profession – being able to play an important part in the health and quality of life of the public gives a sense of pride’, commented Raj Rattan, dental Director at dental Protection.

‘However, when I talk to dentists across Ireland, it is evident that there is an increased incidence and risk of burnout.

‘The sense of disillusionment, which is a feature of burnout, is demotivating for the dental team and potentially puts patients at risk from sub-optimal care.

‘In contrast, dentists who are motivated, enthused and engaged show high levels of empathy, are more compassionate and provide safer patient care.

‘I am proud of the work Dental Protection does to support those dealing with burnout. But while this support is invaluable, it is only a part of the solution.

‘The environment within which a dentist works is key – it is crucial to their wellbeing and their ability to thrive in the clinical setting.

‘This is why we at Dental Protection, alongside other organisations, campaign tirelessly for reforms to help improve everyday working conditions for dentists and their teams.’

Breaking the cycle

The dental protection organisation has published a report, Breaking the burnout cycle, which argues that burnout is not only bad for the dentist concerned, but also for patients and the wider dental team.

The report also calls on large dental organisations to consider establishing a ‘wellbeing guardian’ so dentists have access to someone trained to recognise burnout and offer support, with a similar dedicated person working with smaller clinics locally. It also calls for dentists’ wellbeing to become a key performance indicator.

Explaining the impact of burnout, one anonymous Dental Protection member said: ‘Running a practice takes up a huge amount of time on the whole, attending the patients is the best part as most of them are nice and grateful but finding the time to comply with all regulations, paperwork, accounts, staff issues, tax while having a home and family life is what causes burnout.’

Another member commented on this pressing issue stating that: ‘Burnout is unavoidable in clinical dentistry. Business management should play a key role in dentist education at undergraduate level. Also training to cope with burnout and associated sometimes lethal consequences.‎’

‘In our new report on burnout we recommend some potential steps that both large and small dental organisations can consider’, explained Dr Rattan.

‘We believe that change at organisational level is a significant root cause of burnout and this must be addressed effectively if we want to support dentists to remain in the profession’.