Dentistry is not an easy profession. The clinical aspects of dentistry are physically and emotionally demanding. Performing repetitive procedures and holding static postures for prolonged periods of time can leave dentists feeling mentally drained, sore and fatigued. And given the frequent exposure to patient anxiety and the need for precision when performing dental procedures, it is not uncommon for dentists themselves to develop anxiety about causing pain to patients or making a mistake when performing a procedure.
The other aspects of dentistry are no less challenging. Many dentists work long hours, which makes balancing work, family, and other responsibilities difficult. Other stressors include difficult and uncooperative patients, dissatisfied patients, finances, business problems, collecting payments, paperwork/bureaucracy, time pressure, cancellations, no-shows—the list goes on and on. And that is not even taking into consideration major stressors, such as staff issues, board complaints, audits, and malpractice lawsuits.
When presented with these difficulties, dentists can become anxious and depressed. Some even seek out mood altering drugs and/or begin to abuse alcohol, in an effort to alleviate the stress.
Thankfully, there are resources available where dentists can turn to for help. Most dental associations have a subcommittee or group designed to provide confidential help to dentists struggling with emotional, mental and/or substance abuse issues.
For example, the Arizona Dental Association (AzDA) has a group called the Dentists Concerned for Dentist Committee (DCD). The DCD is a group of fellow dentists who work with other dentists to help them with substance abuse problems, with an emphasis on “cure and return to practice.” When the DCD is contacted, everything remains strictly confidential, and the State Board is not notified. As explained by the DCD, “[t]here should be no grief or shame in seeking help.” Accordingly, DCD records are “sealed and cannot be accessed by anyone.”
If you are a dentist in Arizona struggling with substance abuse, or you know a dentist who is, consider contacting the AzDA so that a referral can be made to the DCD. You can find the contact information for the AzDA here.
If you live outside Arizona, consider contacting your local dental association to see if it has a similar program.
Remember, it’s ok to ask for help.
“When Life Feels Just Too Hard,” INSCRIPTIONS, Vol. 30, No. 8 (August 2016) at p. 24.