A dentist either survives a disabling illness or injury or doesn’t. What does survival mean? Does it mean healing and promptly returning to clinical practice?   Is it as simple as meaning you are not dead.  More likely it is something in-between for most of us.  An encounter with cancer or severe accidental injury truly is catastrophic for an active dentist; and survival and life are real issues.

Whether you are male or female may have some impact on your survival.  Medical studies have extensively researched the differences in survival rates of the sexes.  Most studies concentrated on the injury or illness specifically, and left disability issues aside.  These medical journal articles are primarily concerned with survival and any thought of disability afterward was of secondary interest.  We can infer that the survival of a patient is the critical component to disability management;  and proportionally related.   By disability survival we mean returning to a transitioned life with functional capabilities.  With hopeless cases of long-term admission to care facilities aside, we speak to those who have the capability and the will to continue on and be productive in life in any capacity.

There are known risk factors to long-term survival after injury or illness. Your pre-existing medical status and health are often very important variables that can affect your prognosis. Whether you smoke, have a history of heart disease, or are a diabetic; all can influence the final outcome.  With respect to your sex, there are documented risks that are well-known.  Males have a higher risk factor overall, but females often have more severe initial morbidity and mortality rates. As time passes, the rates tend to equalize. Life expectancy is another issue and should not be confused with disability.  Females have an established longer life span world-wide.  This is due to many factors to include hormonal influences, physiology, and behavior.   Mortality overall is lower in females but not with a corresponding decrease in morbidity.  Morbidity corresponds to disability.

These facts should not discourage either sex. Taking decisive action in the face of adversity is VERY IMPORTANT.  Looking for opportunities in the midst of disaster is an CRITICAL  aspect of survival.  Take a look at this cancer survivors TED talk for ideas and inspiration.

Review of the literature tends to lead us to the conclusion that as a dentist you will have a very similar overall risk as the general population for encountering severe injury and illnesses.  Some areas such as psychologic illnesses and orthopedic injuries are slightly higher, but statistically they are essentially the same as everyone else when factoring in age and medical history.  By reviewing the studies that concentrate on which sex is at more risk, we can conclude that as a male dentist you have a higher initial risk of injury and illness and correspondingly higher risk of disability.  As a female dentist you are likely to be sicker if you encounter a bad illness or injury initially.  Over time during recovery, when comparing your survival to males; your chance of survival will be the same.  The reasons for these findings are multi-factorial. We are just giving you an idea of the known risks here.

An important factor in survival, beyond quality life, is the realization that you still have value and can contribute; no matter your physical condition.  This drive is key to survival in healthcare professionals.  The drive to be relevant and needed often is a huge factor in rehabilitation and recovery.  Whether you are male or female, understanding your value and options is very important to disability success.  You can survive disabling injuries and illnesses, but what is next?  Move on to new challenges and seek new opportunities. See our posting on the ten steps to survive disability to start with. TEN STEPS TO SURVIVE DISABILITY We hope you can use our recommendations to seek real support and make good decisions on your future.