Reviewing the collective data regarding disability for dentists in the USA once again gives solid numbers on the scope of the problems faced by the profession. Impairment was once thought of an inability to practice due to alcohol and substance abuse. The true nature of impairment is much more sinister.

If you are facing personal challenges to practice dentistry, you are not alone. Rock solid data now points to the fact that one third of dentists face an impaired situation during their active careers. This works out to a 1-2% number annually. A staggering number. A number of factors goes into developing an accurate picture of the problem.

Only 10% of impairment/disability conditions are medically related. Most dentists would give a number closer to 90%, but this is far from the inconvenient truth. 40% of conditions that can cause impairment or inability to safely practice dentistry are related to substance abuse. This spans the wholes realm of issues from drugs, addiction, and alcohol. Another 40% of disabilities are psychologically related illnesses. These medical diagnoses such as depression, anxiety, mental illness, and nervous conditions span the large field of psychiatric illnesses. Finally, the last major area of concern is physician/dentist burnout and anger coming in at 10%. This is not a small number in retrospect and deserves it’s own list of actions to recover.

The shocking number of impairing conditions not related to accidents and medical illnesses, is astounding. Fortunately the steps that need to be taken to survive are essentially the same in 100% of these situations. We all have patients, staff, family, offices, and businesses that need immediate attention. If you develop an impairment or disability there are a number of things that need to be addressed. SEE our prior post….. TEN STEPS TO SURVIVE DISABILITY

There are programs to help and support dentists in every state who face substance abuse problems. If you voluntarily submit yourself to these programs you will avoid disciplinary actions and have numerous legal protections. Check out this for yourself. These state addiction programs have excellent success rates. We strongly suggest you start with them a soon as you identify a problem, before a staff member or patient files a complaint. Dental boards are very strict with those practitioners who fail to voluntarily submit to monitored treatment.

We have posted extensively in the past regarding medical disabilities and please review our website for ideas to survive. 10 MISTAKES DENTISTS MAKE AFTER GETTING SICK

Psychological illnesses are the true silent killer of dental practices and the dentists that run them. Dentists are so reluctant to seek help because of the demands of the profession. Any hint of an impairment can have catastrophic effects on an active practice. The public demands the utmost in skill and integrity and hiding the fact that one is effected only goes so far. See one of our prior posts on the issue. DENTAL DISEASES OF DESPAIR; BURNOUT AND ADDICTION. There are sources of good treatment readily open that are confidential and very effective. Start with you family physician. Theses are legally protected conversations and referrals. The confidential nature of the entire process will protect your active practice while you get the best of care. Whether it is medication, counseling or a combination of both; treatment is key to survival.

We wish there was a national dental disability hotline and are working on its development. In the meantime, you need to sit down and develop a treatment plan for yourself. Just like you do for your dental patients. Seek out family friends, and medical professionals. Discreet conversations can be had if you are focused on your survival. Yes, not all of us survive these situations and unfortunately there are casualties. We stand ready to assist you and are available 24/7. Please e-mail us or call us directly any time of the day. Our only reward is your survival and there is no charge. We are volunteer dentists who have survived illnesses, addiction, and injury. To tell you the truth, it doesn’t matter whether it is cancer, leukemia, a heart attack, depression, anxiety, or a car accident………….the things you need to do now are essentially the same. We have been there and know the mistakes to avoid. Learn from our experiences and move on with confidence. We look forward to hearing from you.


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