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Mental Health Struggles and Management Among Dentists

A Silent Epidemic: Mental Health Struggles in the Field of Dentistry

In the healthcare profession, mental health issues, especially those concerning substance abuse, are rarely discussed. In fact, dentists and oral surgeons may often shy away from admitting to mental health concerns and seeking professional help for fear that careers may be at stake.

Studies dating back to the 1980s note dissatisfaction, anxiety, and depression among male and female dentists and oral surgeons. Dentistry and oral surgery are professional fields riddled with stress and the requirement for perfection. Research shows also that dentists and oral surgeons face higher rates of suicide than other executive and health industry professionals in the United States.

Stress or burnout in the dental and oral surgery profession may be due to but is not limited to the following:

  • Working in confined, isolating spaces
  • Performing stressful, precise procedures on a part of the body that is notoriously sensitive and painful for the patient
  • Working long hours with a heavy workload
  • Facing unfavorable public perception of dental visits, dental procedures, and dentists
  • Avoiding asking for help, viewing admitting struggle as a sign of weakness

Due to the demand for perfection in the healthcare field, dentists and oral surgeons may not seek help for a mental health condition, substance, or alcohol abuse issues, or feelings burnt out.

Anxiety, Depression, and Other Mental Health Concerns in Dentists and Oral Surgeons

Overwhelming stress is often accompanied by anxiety, so it’s no wonder that the percentage of dentists diagnosed with anxiety more than tripled in 2021 compared to a study in 2003. Signs and symptoms of anxiety, depression, or other mental distress may include:

  • Acting out of character
  • Behaviors of irritability, criticism, indecisiveness, and becoming unorganized
  • Reduction in productivity
  • Absences from work
  • Lack of interest in hobbies, visits with friends, or typically pleasurable activities
  • Feelings of hopelessness, loss, and burnout
  • Alcohol or other substance abuse
  • Physical signs and symptoms of burnout, anxiety, depression, and mental distress can include:
  • Lethargy or inability to stay awake
  • Insomnia
  • Headaches
  • Stomach or intestinal issues
  • Back pain
  • Body aches
  • Weight gain or loss

Discrete, Professional Substance Abuse Treatment in New York

Seeking treatment for addiction is non-reportable. Fifth Avenue Psychiatry provides discrete, professional addiction treatment in Manhattan. Dr. Glazer is recognized as a Castle Connolly Top Doctor since 2015 and is featured yearly in New York Magazine’s Best Doctor issue.