Americans routinely underestimate their risk of disability. This holds true for the dental community too.  There is a one in four chance you will encounter a disabling accident or illness during your working career. Not the best odds for a betting person. Your chances of encountering a disabling event are good. How well you financially and personally survive the event depends on your preparedness.  As health care practitioners we practice for unexpected emergencies in our offices.  We are required to take basic life support by state law and it must be current. WHY?  Because your state recognizes the risks and wants you to be prepared to protect the public. Being prepared for disability is no different.

Few Americans are financially prepared for emergencies. Do you save any of your annual income?  How long can you afford to be without a paycheck?  Financial planning is not only for the senior dentists, it must be an integral component of every practitioner’s disability contingency plan. Unfortunately it is not a factor of if you will become disabled, it is just a factor of when?  Does it really matter how long you are disabled?  6 weeks, 6 months, or 6 years; the effects on you, your family, and your practice are often the same.

You can hide from disability, but you can’t run. Your case may be short or long term.  Disability Insurance is important, but only a secondary component to getting your life back on track. At the present time, emotion and anxiety often dictate the poor decisions that are made in haste. Ignoring this issue and hiding your head in the sand will not make it go away. WAKE UP! You need to accept the risk and make good decisions in preparation for disaster. Maybe you will be in that group of 75% that never has this occur to them. ARE YOU READY TO GAMBLE?

Look at the risks that we face on a daily basis that increase the likelihood of accidents and illnesses. Stress, lack of sleep, poor eating habits, poor exercise habits, excess body weight, and depression are just the tip of the iceberg.  Primarily look at just bad luck, bad genes, or KARMA.  You can’t control them and just have to throw the dice.

Why is our dental profession so prone to disability? Clinical dentistry is physically demanding in some very specific ways. Backs, necks, shoulders, hands are vulnerable to injury that is challenged by a combination of repetitive motion and position. Ergonomic training in dental school is important but not the complete solution to the problem. Add a little stress into the mix and it’s like gasoline on a fire. Some impairments, a fine tremor for example would not be disabling for another kind of work, but prove devastating for a dentist.

We work in small spaces. Our profession performs intricate procedures that require meticulous detail in execution. Our daily dental routine is physically and mentally taxing. Patient anxiety  is easily transferred to the operator. We get little chance to exercise during the day and function in a isolated stress inducing environment. The economic and time pressures that are in place in a modern dental office are significant. The answer to the question of WHY? is right in front of us.

Nearly 50% of practicing dentists suffer at least on symptom of a musculoskeletal disorder. The number one killer of dentists is cardiovascular disease. Dentists suffer neurologic disorders at twice the rate of physicians. Emotional illness is a frequent cause of disability. Approximately 90% of dental disabilities are due to medical illnesses, only 10% are due to accidents! See our posting on the steps to survive.FEAR MAKES THE WOLF BIGGER THAN HE IS-TEN STEPS TO SURVIVE DISABILITY

Hope for the best, and plan for the worst. Everyone has a date with disaster. Hopefully you will live to 100 and die on the beach in Tahiti. None of us really know. Be realistic and make smart decisions now in preparation for the unexpected. A few simple steps in will make all the difference. Don’t let worry override common sense. You will sleep like a baby every night, knowing you are prepared.

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