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Press release: Dentists advised to look after their health and wellbeing

10 December 2019

Dental professionals should take steps to ensure their wellbeing is safeguarded, according to Australia’s leading dental protection organisation.

A Dental Protection survey of dental practitioners in Australia reveals that over 40% of dental practitioners do not feel that their wellbeing is a priority at work and do not feel encouraged to discuss wellbeing issues. 45% of respondents say they have considered leaving the profession for reasons of wellbeing. 

In its new report– “Breaking the burnout cycle” – Dental Protection says burnout is not only bad for the dental practitioner concerned, but also for patients and the wider dental team. It calls on dental practitioners to ensure they are aware of the risks and consequences of burnout, and how to recognise signs of burnout in themselves.

The report also calls for dental practitioners’ wellbeing to become a priority in practice objectives, alongside providing good care and other patient focussed performance measures.

Raj Rattan, Dental Director at Dental Protection said:

“Dentistry is a very rewarding profession - being able to play an important part in the health and quality of life of the public gives a sense of pride. However, it is clear that more could be done to ensure the wellbeing of dental professionals is a priority.

“Dental practitioners who may be disillusioned and disengaged will probably have a demotivating impact on the whole team. Moreover, it could potentially put patients at risk from sub-optimal care. In contrast, dentists who are motivated, enthused and engaged show high levels of empathy, are more compassionate and provide safer patient care. This is the reason why Dental Protection is calling for wellbeing to form part of the practice’s objectives.

“I am proud of the work Dental Protection does to support those dealing with burnout, but it is only part of the solution. Burnout can be avoided with a common effort from dental practitioners and practices to take responsibility for wellbeing and implement some changes. If steps are not taken, unfortunately there is a risk that dental practitioners may become burnt out and disillusioned in ever greater numbers.

One anonymous Dental Protection member added that they would like “more support from the clinical director and HR in managing expectations of patients so that we aren’t forced to take on more than we are capable of.”

Another member commented: “Dentists - particularly young dentists - need to feel supported by their peers and professional associations to stand up for their working conditions and not be bullied into working to excess.”

ENDS

Notes to editors

For further information contact: patricia.canedo@medicalprotection.org (+44) 207 640 5183 or Gareth.Cockman@medicalprotection.org.

  • The Dental Protection member survey ran from 11 June and 25 June 2019 and received 183 responses from dentists in Australia.
  • The full policy report Breaking the burnout cycle can be read here.
  • Burnout definition: Burnout is characterised by mental, physical and emotional exhaustion, cynicism, increased detachment and a decline in professional satisfaction caused by multiple factors. These contributing factors can exist at a personal, team and wider system level. Burnout is not the same as depression, they have different diagnostic criteria with different treatment. Burnout improves with a break or time away, depression does not. Burnout is a problem that is specific to the work context, in contrast to depression, which tends to pervade every domain of a person’s life.
  • MPS runs a Building resilience, avoiding burnout (BRAB) workshop. This workshop helps to recognise the signs of burnout and gives the knowledge and confidence to manage the symptoms to recover as well as prevent reoccurrence. Find out more here.

Key recommendations:

  • Every dentist in Australia should be trained on recognising burnout in themselves, and the risks and consequences of it.
  • Corporate objectives should include wellbeing, to demonstrate commitment from the top, putting measures in place to make rest and recovery periods the norm.
  • The Department of Health should ensure that funding is available to provide counselling services if burnout has already occurred.
  • Provide scholars with obligatory training in general wellbeing in the workplace, in building resilience, speaking up for safety, and how to develop good individual coping strategies.

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© 2019 The Medical Protection Society Limited

DPL Australia Pty Ltd (“DPLA”) is registered in Australia with ABN 24 092 695 933. Dental Protection Limited (“DPL”) is registered in England (No. 2374160) and along with DPLA is part of the Medical Protection Society Limited (“MPS”) group of companies. MPS is registered in England (No. 00036142). Both DPL and MPS have their registered office at Level 19, The Shard, 32 London Bridge Street, London, SE1 9SG. DPL serves and supports the dental members of MPS. All the benefits of MPS membership are discretionary, as set out in MPS’s Memorandum and Articles of Association. “Dental Protection member” in Australia means a non-indemnity dental member of MPS. Dental Protection members may hold membership independently or in conjunction with membership of the Australian Dental Association (W.A. Branch) Inc. (“ADA WA”).

Dental Protection members who hold membership independently need to apply for, and where applicable maintain, an individual Dental Indemnity Policy underwritten by MDA National Insurance Pty Ltd (“MDA”), ABN 56 058 271 417, AFS Licence No. 238073. DPLA is a Corporate Authorised Representative of MDA with CAR No. 326134. For such Dental Protection members, by agreement with MDA, DPLA provides point-of-contact member services, case management and colleague-to-colleague support.

Dental Protection members who are also ADA WA members need to apply for, and where applicable maintain, an individual Dental Indemnity Policy underwritten by MDA, which is available in accordance with the provisions of ADA WA membership.

None of ADA WA, DPL, DPLA and MPS are insurance companies. Dental Protection® is a registered trademark of MPS.