Why Dentists Need Time Off

Stress is a major component of being a dentist, both physically and emotionally. So, if you want to continue to offer your patients the highest level of care you are capable of, you do need to look after yourself.

The Physical Stress

Stress-related cardiovascular disease is the number one killer of dentists. But why are we so stressed out? As dentists, we spend the majority of our time in small spaces, where we are required to concentrate heavily and perform extremely detailed work. Most of the time, we stand still, putting a strain on the circulatory system, causing back and eye strain.

Research has also revealed that dentists do not exercise enough, either, and certainly not enough to counteract circulatory, muscle, and connective tissue deterioration.

Getting at least 30 minutes of exercise daily might not be possible with your schedule, but try to at least take a few laps around the parking lot, or walk down to the nearest sandwich shop for lunch—find creative ways to add a little movement to your day.

The Emotional Stress

Many dentists do not have a team to collaborate and share our problems with. Additionally, dentists are considered to be highly competitive with one another, making it less likely that we will go out of our way to seek that second or third opinion.

Dentists are also categorically perfectionist and pedantic in nature, which can lead to frustration and discontent with one’s performance. If feelings of inadequacy arise, or if you feel any overwhelming negative emotions, it is important to take the time to speak with another person—professional or otherwise, whether that be a life coach or a close friend.

The Professional Stress

Good dentists propose the ideal treatment for their patients. But unfortunately, the fulfillment of this ideal does not lie solely in the hands of the dentist. Poor patient education or inadequate funds often get in the way of the ideal treatment plan being followed, leading to professional stress and frustration.

So what can you do?

The good news is that there are management methods you can put in place to minimize stress exposure and encourage balance.

  1. Get daily exercise. If you can’t get to the gym or don’t want to put on your running shoes, try to go for a walk every day.
  2. Watch the clock. Don’t allow yourself to work after hours consistently. Take time off.
  3. Reach out. If you aren’t interested in talking to colleagues, find someone to talk to like a psychologist, a mentor, a close friend, and make a point of doing it regularly.
  4. Schedule regular time off. It doesn’t have to be extravagant or extended, just regular. Optimize the experience by switching off from the world completely for short intervals.
  5. Ease patient anxiety. Put a plan in place to reduce patient anxiety in your practice. Reconsider the patient experience and find innovative ways to help them relax. It will benefit everyone.

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