Disability doesn’t need to totally incapacitate you.  All it needs to do is keep you from practicing dentistry safely and efficiently.  It is no surprise that many dentists continue to practice even when technically disabled. Many dentists just force their way through the disability understanding they will likely function with decreased efficiency and capability.

A little neck pain, back strain, or chronic headache, all take their toll on your effectiveness as a dentist.  Many practitioners are reluctant to apply for disability coverage because of unwarranted pride and the desire to avoid the stigma of being disabled.  Some believe they aren’t really that bad and their disability carrier would never pay.  The truth is far different.  You have an obligation to your patients and family to periodically evaluate yourself if you are developing a condition that may prevent you from practicing at your full potential.  Most of you have Disability Policies that pay residual benefits if you can show  decreased production that is related to a disability.   You don’t need to be totally incapacitated, just less capable.

The result of the hesitation of many dental professionals leads to the fact that there are thousands of us out there practicing in pain.   Either physical or emotional, the pain is real.  This pain is invisible to the public and possibly even your family.  Only you know the extent of the problem.  Seeking advice from other professionals, your family, or your physicians is the place to start. You may only have a transitory condition and will get better, but do you really ever know for sure?   Sit back and think.  You need to weigh a number of factors and their relative importance. Your safe practice of our profession is paramount. Secondly, you need to evaluate the financial implications of your condition.  Are you producing less than you know you can?  Is your production slowly decreasing over time?   How would this decrease in production effect the sale price of your practice should you be forced to sell?   Would you get a significantly lower sale price because of a delay?

As we have stated , disability is a very complex topic. It is far more complicated than we want to accept and our understanding of that fact will help us make good decision in the future.   All of us are at risk in this area.  You may finally come to the conclusion that you are in denial of a totally legitimate disability, or you may realize that you are fine and need to only make some minor adjustments to your daily routine.   Many dentists learn the hard way that ergonomic smart practice is the key to as long dental career.   Others need to come to the conclusion that they really do need a break from practice on a regular basis. Vacations decrease stress for you, your staff, and your family.   They also are critical to a successful long practice of dentistry.  Regular exercise,  8 hours of sleep daily, and a healthy diet all play roles in your successful practice of dentistry.  You make the decision and will have to sink or swim with the result.

Disability is often invisible and you don’t need to be blind or missing a limb to justify your limited practice of dentistry or transition to another field. This is a dynamic topic and is always changing.  One day you are fine, and the next your back is killing you.  Come up with plan that works for you. Adapt to your condition, get better with good professional care, or continue to ignore it and join the thousands of other dentists who continue to practice in pain.   We hope that by shedding light on this subject, the dental community will be less likely to compromise their personal happiness and patient care as a whole. Please refer to our other postings on this website or the ADA for additional information on disability and its management. TEN STEPS TO SURVIVE DISABILITY                                             YOUR CONDITION IS NO LONGER INVISIBLE!

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