Dental school classes are now approaching enrollment that are 50% female. Dentistry continues to reflect our society as a whole and is a dynamic and challenging profession. The question arises in our discussion of dental disability , whether this new reality has any effect on the ratio of dentists who will encounter either a disabling illness or accident during their career?
Currently we can expect approximately a 20-30% chance of becoming disabled during our working dental career. This may represent a short or long-term disability, but does it really matter? A high proportion of those disabilities will be permanent. Even a short-term disability of several months can have catastrophic financial consequences to a dental practice. How might this change as the number a female dentists increases?
Preliminary studies conducted on the changing dental community, reveal an ever-increasing number of female dentists. How will this change the profession? By reflecting society as a whole, this will lead to continued professional strength. We look forward to a bright future for our great profession. Of interest are results of some surveys done over the past few years of the practicing dental community. Female dentists will likely practice fewer years. How this affects the dental profession is currently unknown.
Some of the other issues that are being reviewed include the effects of pregnancy on dental practice and the number of hours devoted to active practice each week compared to male dentists. How do these concerns relate to disability? Whether a dentist has a bad accident or encounters a severe illness, the end result is not predictable. We can make some general statement regarding the anticipated risk that female dentists will encounter.
Female life span is greater than males, and the potential for increased dental career length is therefore greater. Medical issues and accidental risks are likely the same as the general population. The possibility of decreased the number of hours worked each week, may have positive side effects from an orthopedic standpoint. Repetitive motion, back, and neck injuries may be significantly decreased. The same holds true for psychiatric illnesses due to a decreased level of stress. Pregnancy will have an effect on practices, but it will likely only be a transitory issue with the greater effect being on practice longevity and the number of hours worked each week.
So what can we expect? It is likely that the rate of disability for both sexes is exactly the same. On-going studies by the ADA and the insurance industry will shed light on the exact scope of this issue. In the long run it doesn’t really matter. If you are sick or injured and can’t practice dentistry for a while, the problems that are there are the same no matter who you are. If you are at risk for disability or know someone who is disabled, start checking out the steps to fight disability and survive. See our posting on the ten steps to survive disability.TEN STEPS TO SURVIVE DISABILITY. It will be a start and get you headed in the right direction.
Disability doesn’t care how old you are. Disability doesn’t care what race, sex, or religion you are. Disability does mess up your life plans. Disability is not the end. Disability can be fought. You will survive. How do you eat an elephant? ONE BITE AT A TIME. Success is accomplished by little steps. Take it one day at a time.
We offer ideas, support, and encouragement for dentists in likely the most difficult time in their lives. You survived dental school by perseverance. The same holds true for disability. Get up each morning and make the decision to move forward. You are not the first to encounter a severe illness or bad accident as a dentist. You will not be the last. Use the experiences of others to fight back. We have made mistakes. Learn from us and get your life back.We offer real help and are ready for anything. Seek out your family and especially your dental peers. They will likely be the best support that you will have. YOU HAVE IMPORTANT THINGS TO LIVE FOR. MOVE ON.