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Half of dentists in the UK have considered leaving dentistry for reasons of personal wellbeing

Post date: 15/01/2020 | Time to read article: 3 mins

The information within this article was correct at the time of publishing. Last updated 15/01/2020

The dental community must act to prevent burnout amongst dentists so they stay in practice rather than quit the profession, according to Dental Protection.

A Dental Protection survey of dentists in the UK reveals increasing levels of burnout among the profession. Half of the respondents (50%) indicated that they have considered leaving the profession for reasons of personal wellbeing. The same amount (50%) are dissatisfied with their work/life balance and 60% of those surveyed said they found it difficult to take a short break.

In its new report– “Breaking the burnout cycle” – Dental Protection says burnout creates problems not just for the dentist involved but can impact patients and the wider dental team. It calls on dental organisations to consider establishing a ‘Wellbeing Guardian’ so dentists have access to a named person who has undergone the required training to   recognise burnout and offer the necessary support. It also calls for dentists’ wellbeing to be included amongst other Key Performance Indicators.

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 is a privilege and gives a sense of pride. However, when I talk to dentists throughout UK, it is clear that morale is low, and well-being issues are rising up the professional agenda.

“Dentists experiencing burnout are likely to be more error-prone which can compromise the quality of care provided for their patients or deliver substandard care at work; they are less empathic, less able cognitively and this behaviour can have a negative impact on colleagues, teams and the organisation.

“I am proud of the work Dental Protection does to support members suffering from burnout through our education and risk management programmes.  We encourage dentists to reduce their exposure to burnout by reviewing the working environment and workload and adopting a proactive approach to developing resilience to reduce the risk of burnout and its consequences.  

“We could also go further and consider the significant impact of the underlying systemic factors that contribute to burnout. Efforts to minimise the harmful effects of burnout will only bear fruit when these underlying causes have been adequately addressed.

“We believe that if our recommendations are taken seriously it will help to mitigate the personal and professional risks associated with burnout in the profession.”

One anonymous Dental Protection member added: “The bureaucracy with CQC, GDC, NHS, and the constant fear of litigation - just because we are the one number target - are making this profession difficult to perform and enjoy and add to the burnout feeling. No other profession seems to have the same regulation and punishment as dentistry.”

Another Dental Protection member said: “Dentistry is a uniquely lonely, high pressured career. We spend our entire day caring for others no matter the cost to ourselves.”


For press enquiries, please contact the MPS press office.

Notes to editors

  • The Dental Protection member survey ran from 11 June and 25 June 2019 and received 422 responses from dentists in the UK.
  • 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.
  • Wellbeing Guardians were initially recommended by the NHS Staff and Learners’ Mental Wellbeing Commission, which was set up by Health Education England.
  • The key recommendations from Dental Protection are:
    • Dentists to be trained about the risks on burnout, stimulate supportive working relationships and feel comfortable raising any concerns with managers.
    • Dental teams and practices should develop policies in place to allow for break, making rest and recovery period the norm; create work environments that encourage recognition of achievements and should be trained on the importance of putting policies in places to prevent burnout.
    • Large dental organisations should look at implementing a Wellbeing Guardian by 2022.
    • The Department of Health should ensure that funding is available for counselling once burnout has occurred.
    • Dental schools should focus on giving dental practitioners who supervise others training to identify and support sick team members.

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. 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.

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