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During Mental Health Awareness month, Dental Protection survey reveals that over 38% of dentists feel burnt out

17 October 2018

Medical Protection survey of more than 170 South African dental members reveals that over 38% either agree or strongly agree that they feel burnt out.

83% of dentists surveyed agreed that patient expectations have increased in the last five years, with more than 70% saying they find it most challenging to manage unrealistic patient expectations.

Nearly 30% said they experience a heavier workload, over 40% struggle to achieve an appropriate work/life balance or that they have no work/life balance at all, and more than a third (35%) experience more stress and anxiety.

Dr Alasdair McKelvie, Head of Dental Services, Africa at Dental Protection said:

“It is now well recognised that rates of burnout within the dental profession are significant. Studies from around the world quote rates of 15-84 per cent depending on the dimension of burnout studied1.

“Dentists want the best for their patients and the stress of working with anxious or demanding patients day after day can be very difficult.  Over 70% of our members have told us that they find it most challenging to manage unrealistic patient expectations. They are also practising in a much more litigious society, all of which are impacting on dentists’ emotional health, and yet so few are seeking support – in some cases due to the perceived stigma attached to mental health issues.  

“The experience can be isolating and can have a negative impact on professional confidence. Dental Protection urges colleagues of dentists to look out for signs of burnout or mental health problems and offer support, such as talking through issues or helping to balance their workload.

“It is important that dentists know that seeking help will not automatically lead to a referral to the HPCSA or put their careers at risk. Colleagues should provide support to those who may be struggling and in the interests of providing the best care to their patients; dentists must seek help as soon as they experience difficulties.”

A presentation on ‘Stress, burnout and resilience’ was given by Dr Caroline Lee, Anaesthetist in private practice and convenor of the Wellness in Anaesthesia Support Group, South African Society of Anaesthesiologists (SASA) at the Ethics for All event. Dr Lee provided some practical solutions on how healthcare professionals can take better care of themselves, including regular check-ups with their medical practitioner, delegation, hobbies outside of dentistry/medicine, booking holidays and exercise.

The event took place in Durban, Pretoria and Cape Town in the first two weeks of October, where over 2,500 healthcare professionals attended.


Notes to editors

  1. Singh et al, Systematic review: Factors contributing to burnout in dentistry, Occupational Medicine 2016;66:27–31
  2. In June 2018 MPS surveyed 173 dentists in South Africa

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About Dental Protection  

Dental Protection – part of the Medical Protection Society

MPS is the world’s leading member-owned, not-for-profit protection organisation for doctors, dentists and healthcare professionals. 

Founded in 1892, we exist to protect and support the professional interests of more than 300,000 members around the world, helping them to understand and navigate the ongoing challenges of modern practice. Today we proudly support members in the United Kingdom, Ireland, South Africa, New Zealand, Australia, Hong Kong, Singapore, Malaysia, the Caribbean and Bermuda.

Our in-house experts can assist with the wide range of legal and ethical problems that arise from their professional practice. This may include assistance with 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. 

We also actively campaign for regulatory and legal reforms that benefit members and the wider healthcare professions.

We are not an insurance company, and all benefits of MPS membership are discretionary, as set out in the Memorandum and Articles of Association