Every profession has stress and it is well-known that health care ranks high in that critical category.   The dental profession has unique stress and recognizing the risks involved can lead to a much more satisfying career.   For many the choice to just “live with it” is adequate.  Their quality of life is diminished, but they persevere.

The end result for far too many dental practitioners is clinical depression. This is a medical diagnosis and can be just as severe as cancer. Recognizing that fact is very difficult and avoiding treatment only makes the problem worse.  For many the stigma of depression is just too much of a burden and they tend to hide the fact they are really ill.

The disability insurance industry has long recognized that depression is a financial risk in this for-profit corporate world.  In order to minimize financial loss, most disability companies have categorized mental diagnoses in special risk retention groups.   Years ago, depression and other anxiety related diagnoses were treated exactly the same as other well documented illnesses.  You could expect full coverage for a claim and receive your monthly benefits with little difficulty.

Because of the likelihood of fraud and the attractiveness of financial gain the insurance industry has slowly separated medical diagnoses related to depression and anxiety away from other medical conditions.  They recognize the high level of stress in our profession and understand that many practitioners will seriously consider making claims for disability.   The stress level we face as dentists is only getting worse and the safety net of disability insurance is getting smaller.

The limitations that insurance corporations have placed are varied and each fits the financial goals they have and risks they are willing to take.  Look at the requirements they require to file a valid claim.   Don’t be surprised if you will need multiple medical specialists involved in your claim with very detailed documentation.   In addition, it is likely that you will be limited to only a few years of benefits based on your condition, recovery outlook, and rehabilitation plan. You will likely need serious on-going medical care with very frequent required evaluations.

Remember, your disability insurance carrier is in this for the money; not for you.  The good thing is that they must follow their contract with you to the letter.  The risk for a bad faith lawsuit against them is very high and they understand that completely.  The law is on your side and use that to your advantage.

If you are suffering with an unacceptable level of stress in your dental practice, seek help.   Start with you family and friends. Be open with them and deal with the problem, not the symptoms.   Simple steps at first can have profound effects on your dental career. See our prior posting on burnout for effective ideas.DENTIST PREVENTS BURNOUT-FIVE STEPS TO SURVIVAL.  Delegate responsibility and take time off.

Only you will know if professional help is necessary. Speak with your physician to get confidential and effective treatment. Travel to another community if necessary and use the transit time to decompress and relax.  The time spent in counseling is not wasted and will give you solid options to take. Be open to suggestions and understand you may need to change your daily dental practice routine to a less stress filled schedule. Do different procedures and limits your hours.  In some situations, practitioners move locations or change the focus of their careers. In the end we are talking survival and quality of life. It’s that simple and you need to realize the consequences of failing to take action.

In no way should you be discouraged to submit a claim for disability.  Depression and other related medical diagnosis are completely legitimate.   Your valid claim is your strongest asset.   Review you dental disability policy annually and understand exactly what it states in plain english.  Be open to talking with your agent, but understand they have absolutely no power or leverage with your insurance company. They may be very sympathetic but can’t realistically help in any way.   Above all, purchase a great disability policy that covers depression.   It will cost more, but without it you are without financial support.

Strongly consider employing a disability claim attorney/firm.  We cannot emphasize the critical need for legal assistance when considering any claim related to depression/anxiety or related diagnoses. It is far too easy to make fatal mistakes early in the claim process without help. You will need skilled guidance and support.  Don’t be discouraged, this happens to everyone and the process is the same every time.

Take a look at this attached video on the process of filing a disability claim for depression. It will highlight problems, but also give you great ideas.

In the long run, you do have options when faced with the demon of stress in clinical dentistry.   Deal with it yourself or seek help from others.   Don’t give up and you do have strength with your legal rights to file a valid disability claim.  How do I make a Disability Claim?   See our posting on how to file a disability claim for steps to take now before you actually file. We will be behind you 100% and please contact us if you have any questions.






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