Social isolation and loneliness can take a serious toll on sick or injured dentists. This holds true not only during the your illness, but after recovery too. There are significant documented health risks to isolation. Your chance of survival shrinks in the face of tragedy without support. Mortality rates are higher for those suffering from despair and lack of connection to others.

The antidote for loneliness is friendship. A  very simple statement and very accurate. Dentists frequently practice in isolated settings. Even in a group practice, you are one-on-one with your patients.   Of course you have staff, but are they really your friends?   You are their employer and may have strong bonds to them.  In reality they have their own lives and no matter the circumstances they have their own needs and families to be concerned with. A high percentage of dentists practice in isolation and essentially alone for years.  Many don’t even know their peer of 30 years across the street. Maybe the way we are trained in school to be strong individuals contributes to the problem. Economic and financial pressures only make the problem worse.  It is not healthy and contributes to many related problems.

Friendship can take time and it is truly invaluable. Having your peers/friends to just talk with during a medical crisis may mean the difference between life and death. No one survives a disabling illness or injury alone. After recovery the need for positive interaction with others is still key to long-term survival. Friends are tolerant of your imperfections and your idiosyncrasies. Together as a team you know what’s worth fighting for.  Friends don’t even need to talk, just being there is often enough. Your friends know what you are feeling or thinking even before you speak.

Friendship promotes health. Stay in touch with old friends and make new ones. One of the more famous comments on friendship was made by a dentist. DOC HOLIDAY. He was asked why he continued to hang out with Wyatt Earp , he replied Wyatt Earp is my friend;  he was then told everyone had plenty of friends, his response was I don’t.  Quality of friends always trumps quantity. As the years pass, dentists are often faced with a shrinking pool of friendships. College and dental school are distant memories; and the personal and financial challenges of private practice are huge.

It is easy to think you are alone. You are not.  Social media is a wonderful way to reestablish the connections lost over time. Carefully test the waters, and you will be pleasantly surprised your past relationships are likely just as strong now as they were years ago. In the midst of your illness, addiction, or depression, look to others for real support and help.  YOU MAY ACTUALLY HELP YOUR FRIENDS MORE THAN THEY HELP YOU!

Even as time rolls by, new relationships can take root. Seek out other dentists, former classmates, and family members long forgotten.  You may have not spoken in years and once you start talking it will seem like only a few days.  Friendships sustain survival for years, decades, and lifetimes.  Invest quality time in forming and maintaining your friendships.  Optimize your friendships rather than try to obtain the maximum number of acquaintances.

Friendship plays a central role in rehabilitation and recovery after illnesses and severe injuries.  Following your survival, maintain peak health by continuing strong personal friendships. Have meaningful relationships and don’t avoid attempts by others. They may be in greater need than you.  You will always need people who value you, know you, and bring you joy. those feeling on inclusion never go away. Take a look at this TED talk and its perspective on the lethality of lonliness.

If you have a problem, pick up your phone or get on your computer. Connect and live. Remember the TV show CHEERS. You want to go where everybody knows your name! That sense of family and concern surround you with warmth and peace. Get off the couch and start moving. Everything else being equal the simplest answer to a question is most often correct. The answer to loneliness is friends. See our posting on burnout for ideas to fight the anxiety associated with loneliness DENTIST PREVENTS BURNOUT-FIVE STEPS TO SURVIVAL We will be there for additional support.






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