Urgent action needed to tackle burnout in dentistry

06 November 2019

The dental community must act urgently to tackle the burnout of dentists’ and support them to stay in practice rather than quit the profession - according to a leading dental protection organisation.

A Dental Protection survey of dentists in Ireland reveals increasing levels of burnout among the profession. 44% do not feel that their personal wellbeing is a priority at work, and 35% have considered leaving the profession for personal wellbeing reasons.

In its new report– “Breaking the burnout cycle” – Dental Protection says burnout is not only bad for the dentist concerned, but also for patients and the wider dental team. It calls on large dental organisations to consider establishing a ‘Wellbeing Guardian’ so dentists have access to someone trained to recognise burnout and offer support, with a similar dedicated person working with smaller clinics locally. It also calls for dentists’ wellbeing to become a Key Performance Indicator.

Raj Rattan, Dental Director at Dental Protection said:

“Dentistry can be 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, when I talk to dentists across Ireland, it is evident that there is an increased incidence and risk of burnout.

“The sense of disillusionment, which is a feature of burnout, is demotivating for the dental team and potentially puts 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.

“I am proud of the work Dental Protection does to support those dealing with burnout. But while this support is invaluable, it is only a part of the solution. The environment within which a dentist works is key – it is crucial to their wellbeing and their ability to thrive in the clinical setting. This is why we at Dental Protection, alongside other organisations, campaign tirelessly for reforms to help improve everyday working conditions for dentists and their teams.

“In our new report on burnout we recommend some potential steps that both large and small dental organisations can consider. We believe that change at organisational level is a significant root cause of burnout and this must be addressed effectively if we want to support dentists to remain in the profession.”

One anonymous Dental Protection member added: “Running a practice takes up a huge amount of time on the whole, attending the patients is the best part as most of them are nice and grateful but finding the time to comply with all regulations, paperwork, accounts, staff issues, tax while having a home and family life is what causes burnout.”

Another member commented on this pressing issue stating that: “Burnout is unavoidable in clinical dentistry. Business management should play a key role in dentist education at undergraduate level. Also training to cope with burnout and associated sometimes lethal consequences.‎”


Notes to editors

For further information contact: [email protected] (+44) 207 640 5183.

  • The Dental Protection member survey ran from 11 June and 25 June 2019 and received 231 responses from dentists in Ireland.
  • 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.
  • Wellbeing Guardians were initially recommended by the NHS Staff and Learners’ Mental Wellbeing Commission, which was set up by Health Education England.

About Dental Protection

Dental Protection is a registered trademark and a trading name of The Medical Protection Society Limited (“MPS”). MPS is the world’s leading protection organisation for doctors, dentists and healthcare professionals. Dental Protection protects and supports the professional interests of over 68,000 members worldwide and over 2,800 members in Ireland. Membership provides access to expert advice and support together with the right to request indemnity for complaints or claims arising from professional practice.

Our in-house experts assist with the wide range of legal and ethical problems that arise from professional practice. This can include clinical negligence claims, complaints, medical and dental council inquiries, legal and ethical dilemmas, disciplinary procedures, inquests and fatal accident inquiries.

Our philosophy is to support safe practice in medicine and dentistry by helping to avert problems in the first place. We do this by promoting risk management through our workshops, E-learning, clinical risk assessments, publications, conferences, lectures and presentations.

MPS is not an insurance company. All the benefits of membership of MPS are discretionary as set out in the Memorandum and Articles of Association.