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Stress in dentistry: Joining up the dots

Blog Author Roz McMullan

Blog Date 04/02/2020

Roz and Len at UK Dental Congress 2020​Many organisations are working to reduce the stress load on dentists. Dentists who are feeling overwhelmed and find themselves not getting better with self-help strategies can now gain access to professional, safe and confidential help from a number of different organisations.


These include NHS Practitioner Health Programme for dentists in England, Inspire for dentists in Northern Ireland, SilverCloud for our Armed Forces colleagues and Health Assured for all BDA members, including students. The Dentists’ Health Support Trust also does amazing work, while the BDA Benevolent Fund supports dentists and their families who are experiencing financial pressures.


However, it can still be difficult to figure out where you should turn for help. A stressed-out hospital dentist in Aberdeen and an associate dentist suffering from burnout in Croydon will, for example, have very different options available to them.


Stress in dentistry is an issue close to my heart. During my career I have seen colleagues affected by stress and burnout trying to hold careers and family together while feeling isolated and without support. Sometimes all it takes is someone to ask, “are you OK?”, and to take time to listen. Sometimes the person needs professional help.


We know that dentists in the UK have a high level of stress; higher than doctors, vets and dentists in other countries [1]. Nearly 44% of UK dentists have said they found it difficult to cope and were considering leaving the profession. Presenteeism is also a real problem, with many turning up to work even though they might not be properly fit. This is not good for the dentist’s recovery and not good for the patient, because anyone working while suffering with excess stress or burnout, has poor empathy, as well as reduced competency and focus.


When I speak about these issues, no matter where I am in the country, audience members come up to me afterwards to tell me their stories, often asking where they can turn for help.


I want to make it easier for dentists to understand what options are available to them, to improve the support they can access and further support stress prevention. That’s why, I am bringing together people from across the profession in a roundtable at the BDA on 20 February to discuss mental health and well-being in dentistry.


I’m really encouraged by how well represented the major organisations in dentistry will be at this event. It shows, I think, that right across the board there’s a real interest in tackling these issues and joining up the dots. I am determined to continue our work on improving the working environment of dentists and outlining clear pathways for those who find themselves unable to cope to find professional help. For now, watch this space!


Roz McMullan, BDA President


1. Collin V, et al. BDJ: Vol 226 No1; 2019.