As a dentist, you’re likely no stranger to hand, neck and back pain and you probably have your own personal remedies for when things get particularly bad. Maybe you ice your hands at the end of each day, see a chiropractor or get a massage on a weekly basis. Or maybe you go back to your office to stretch between patients and/or lie down to rest your legs and lower back.
The majority of our clients are dentists, primarily due to the fact that the physical demands of dentistry can be very hard on your body. In fact, these issues are so common that many dentists simply view some degree of pain and discomfort as part of the job. As just one example, we recently spoke with a dentist who works in an office with eight other dentists, and six of them were having hand, neck or back pain (or a combination of the three) and the other two had been practicing for less than ten years.
Given the foregoing, it can often be difficult for dentists to know whether they should just push through the pain, or whether they should stop practicing and file a disability claim. Even when they start experiencing numbness in their hands and feet and are diagnosed with a significant condition such as an essential tremor, carpal tunnel syndrome or severe degenerative disc disease, they still feel pressure to keep working because, as a dentist, your income is typically production-based and most dentists are sole practitioners that cannot afford to spend several months away from their practice recovering from surgery.
At the same time, continuing to work is probably the worst thing you can do for your health, since it is the demands of dentistry that likely caused your condition in the first place and, if nothing else, the prolonged static postures and repetitive motions required by dentistry will likely only cause further degeneration and problems, and result in the need for further procedures and surgeries down the road.
Many dentists in this position notice that they feel better on the weekends when they are not practicing, and determine that they will try reducing their hours or stop doing certain procedures, to see if that helps, without realizing that this can make it harder for them to collect disability benefits if they end up needing to file a claim in the future. Other dentists continue to practice after receiving significant test results/diagnoses, which can not only make it more difficult to collect if they later file a disability claim, but also can expose them to malpractice liability if they end up hurting a patient.
If you have found yourself in this unfortunate predicament, you probably have a lot of questions. Should I have surgery, or just try conservative treatment? If I file a claim, will my disability insurer force me to have surgery? Will surgery fix the numbness? Will I be able to go back to work? How will my practice survive while I recover? Should I sell my practice? Or should I hire on a temporary associate to keep things afloat?
Ultimately, the answers to these questions largely depend on several factors, including whether you own your practice, the nature of your condition, your insurer, when your policies were issued, and what the key definitions in your policy say, among other things.
Regardless of where you are in the disability claims process, our firm is here to help. We’ve compiled the resources below for dentists who are interested in learning more about the disability claims process. Our attorneys are also happy to answer your questions, so feel free to contact us directly with your questions, or submit your question using the link below.
- What Should I Expect When Filing A Disability Claim?
- A Question of Ethics: When is it Time to File a Disability Insurance Claim?
- What If You Could Not Be a Dentist?
- Degenerative Disc Disease and the Dentist
- Musculoskeletal Conditions in Dentistry: The Most Common Disability, The Most Difficult Disability Claim
- Disability Insurance and the Dentist: Can You Collect on Your Policy?
- 10 More Legal Mistakes Professionals Make When Filing a Claim for Disability
- The Injured Dentist: Is Your Work Ethic Hurting You and Your Patients?
- A Stiff Upper Lip Can Lead To Getting Stiffed By Your Insurer: Chronic Pain and Your Ability to Collect Disability Insurance Benefits
- How a Dentist Can Avoid the Common Obstacles to Filing a Disability Claim
- Working Through Pain: How Chronic Conditions Affect Dentists
- Dealing With the Demands of Dentistry: It’s Ok to Ask for Help
- Why is It so Hard to Collect on My Disability Insurance Policy?
- Do You Need Disability Insurance for More than Just Yourself?
- Disability Insurance Basics: How to Choose a Policy
- What Is the Difference Between an “Own Occupation” Policy and an “Any Occupation” Policy?
- Don’t Toss the Policy: Important Documents for a Disability Claim