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​BDA leads on solutions to support dentists' wellbeing and mental health

20 February 2020




The BDA is leading on a ground-breaking initiative to bring together the key stakeholders with an interest in dentists' wellbeing and mental health, to find practical solutions to tackling stress and burnout in the profession, and to focus on prevention strategies.


In collaboration with Public Health England, and a number of other key partners, the BDA held a round-table event in London on 20 February to highlight the challenges dentists are facing.


The day aimed to survey the current support available, and to identify any gaps, and suggest ways to improve provision for dentists, across the UK, and across dentistry's wide variety of fields of practice.


Anxiety, stress and burnout remain prevalent within dentistry, with BDA research indicating almost half of dentists state that stress in their job is exceeds their ability to cope and almost one fifth reporting suicidal thoughts, with 10% in the last 12 months -this is twice as often as the rest of the general population.


This interactive event encouraged input from participants throughout the day, and gave an opportunity to share expertise and learning and ways to work in collaboration, to improve our knowledge of mental health well-being in the workplace and occupation-related stress in dentistry and to focus on some achievable outcomes to improve the situation.


The BDA is now seeking to develop effective prevention strategies, alongside properly signposted, integrated services. Successful lobbying by the BDA means dentists now have access to the NHS Practitioner Health Support Programme in England and Inspire in Northern Ireland. The BDA has lobbied Government in Northern Ireland and Scotland to help get colleagues access to better occupational health support and the  BDA is continuing to lobby the Welsh Government to provide better resources for dentists working in Wales.


We've also provided an additional service for BDA members to access who need support, in partnership with Health Assured, and that has a focus on supporting dentists to spot the signs at an early stage, and an emphasis on ensuring good mental health and prevention.


Roz McMullan, BDA President said:


"Improving wellbeing and mental health is an issue very close to my heart. I have personally seen far too many colleagues bending under the pressure of their roles and responsibilities, and lacking knowledge or support to help see them through the tougher times.


"Our focus is on prevention – we've helped secure support for dentists, but very little is joined up. Too many dentists don't seem to be aware of what help can they can access, or have the knowledge to spot the telltale signs of stress in themselves, their colleagues and their patients. 


"The future of NHS dentistry hinges on a motivated and stable workforce. The dental workforce is too valued and valuable to be lost, and we are concerned about the level of access for our patients.


"We want to ensure skilled and experienced clinicians have a sustainable career path, and that we nurture the talent of the next generation of dentists and support them to stay in the service.  This event is our next step in achieving that goal. We will continue to make the case to ensure our workforce is safeguarded." 


Sandra White, National Lead for Dental Public Health, Health Improvement Directorate, Public Health England said:


"The dental profession has a responsibility for our own, our colleagues, and the public's, health and wellbeing. I hope this day will break down some of the stigma and expectations of ourselves and raise awareness of the support that is available.


"My hope is that dentists will overcome their fear of admitting they are struggling, that they no longer see it as a sign of weakness. We are programmed as professionals to cope, expected to be resilient, but life is full of ups and downs and we are all thrown curve balls sometimes.


"It takes huge courage to admit vulnerability, sadness, anxiety or feelings of not being worthy. The first step is even admitting to ourselves that there may be something wrong. Daring to ask for help from our loved ones, our colleagues, or professionals is the first step to improving health and wellbeing and having a happier life."


For those feeling overwhelmed please contact

Samaritans (UK and RoI) Freephone 116 123

Lifeline (NI) 0808 808 8000 (free in NI)



Photo (c) BDA