One of the likely reasons that dentists become disabled is the stress and anxiety that accompany the profession. To make matters worse, submitting a disability claim with a psychologic diagnosis is both challenging and difficult to prove. Disability fraud within the dental community is possible and your carrier will protect themselves. The key to survival under the heavy load of stress we all have is prevention.

Dental job burnout is a special type of job stress. It is a state of physical, emotional, or mental exhaustion combined with doubt about your competence and value of your work. Dentists are prone to this form of depression for many reasons and the nature of their profession exacerbates the problem.  Dentists work in confined environments with demanding meticulous procedures that need to be performed with no error allowed. Dentists often work alone with little peer support.  Dentists often have significant financial burdens due to the high cost of education and high business overhead demands.  Factor in these many challenging facts, and it’s understandable that stress may win sometimes.

We all have feeling of frustration and lack of enthusiasm at times, but most of us are able to cope with the situation and move on. That does not hold for all of us. Some will be unable to adjust and slowly be overwhelmed by the daily demands of dentistry.  Psychological stress is a significant cause of disability.  It is a totally legitimate diagnosis and needs to be treated. Failure to recognize the symptoms can lead to irreversible financial and personal disasters. As with many things related to dentistry, the answers to this problem can be difficult to find.  We have experienced this demon and know how fight back.   Use our experience to survive and continue with your rewarding career.

We propose a list of logical steps to combat the stress that leads to burnout. Take a look at them and remember they are not rules, only guidelines to get you headed in the right direction. Review this TED talk and look for inspiration and ideas.


When we were young, we benefited from stopping everything we were doing and starting over. The same hold true now. STOP. Sit back and think. This will not take a few minutes, you will need some REAL time. Take a week or two off and go on vacation. REBOOT. Make some smart decision on what is happening and what you are going to do about it. Involve your family and friends. Your practice will survive. We all take vacations and no one questions WHY?  Start with getting 8 hours of sleep every night. EVERY NIGHT FROM NOW ON.


You need to own your own time.   No one needs to work 12 hour days and 6 day work weeks. This is a recipe for disaster. You need scheduled days off and vacations on a routine basis.  Remember, all work and no play makes JACK a dull boy.  Your survival and the survival of your family should be your first priorities. Your practice, staff, and patients will be ok.  If you have a problem, they for sure will have problems.  Why did you get into dentistry in the first place?  Regain your interest in dental practice and regain the motivation that allowed you to succeed in the first place.


One of the key attributes of a good leader is the ability to delegate. Not only delegate but delegate well.  Selecting the right person for the right job is of the utmost importance. You cannot DO IT ALL.  Be smart and share the workload.  You know you spouse, family, friends, and staff.  Divide the burden and make YOUR dental practice a continued success. This may mean you should involve a consulting firm. Remember, you usually get what you pay for.  Consider hiring a partner or associate.  Branch out to another field, but remember the total hours you devote to work. Whatever you do, make a plan. Write it down. Be organized. This is not the time to”Wing it”.


Cultivate a rich non-working life.  It’s not only heathy but necessary to have hobbies and interests outside dentistry.  Don’t take on others problems, and set boundaries that cannot be crossed. You always will be a healthcare professional, but remember you will not be effective at work if you are worried about what is happening at home.  Your first obligation is to YOURSELF and family. If they are doing well, your working situation will run much smoother.  You risk the development of burnout if you ignore this fact. You need to take care of yourself physically. See your physician regularly, exercise, and eat right.  These are common sense steps that may ultimately prevent severe problems with you life and practice.


Social media and the demands of a modern dental practice can often overwhelm a practitioner. Your first step in the right direction is to recognize the potential problem. Congratulations on being proactive and thinking outside the box. Don’t become a statistic and learn to say enough is enough. Take time off and turn off your e-mail and computer. Those intelligent staff members you delegated to help you run your practice will help you carry the load. Make good decisions and live.  Dental practice should not be torture.  It is definitely is challenging and difficult. NO ONE SAID IT WAS GOING TO BE EASY.  You have the answers now so get going.

We hope this gets you on the right path. Remember we all are in the same boat. Stress and dentistry are two sides of the same coin. Use the experience of others to thrive. See our posting on the ten steps to survive disability for other valuable ideas.TEN STEPS TO SURVIVE DISABILITY






  1. Great article ! As a profession, a brotherhood, we need each other. The advice given was helpful and meaningful. To be frank, it could be lifesaving. I’ve been in practice for 36 years and am at the top of my game. However, the better I become, the more doubts I have. Faith is very important for my strength and I love dentistry, yet the acceleration of time and technology make getting a firm grasp on our daily tasks sometimes elusive. Keep up the good work. Dave Betz, Jonesville, MI


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