The Dentist Magazine.

Reducing stress in dentistry - Vera Marques

Published: 4/11/2019 12:00:00 AM

This month is National Stress Month, which aims to increase awareness of the causes and cures of stress. A recent survey highlighted that high levels of self-reported stress and burnout were found in UK dentists, with the top stressors being regulation and fear of litigation.

With this in mind, The Dentist spoke to Manchester dentist Vera Marques about her thoughts on stress in the industry.

Vera said, “I didn’t realise being a dentist was this stressful.

“When people ask what made me want to become a dentist, I begin, innocently enough, explaining that I have a drive to help people, combined with interests in art, engineering, and the medical sciences. Then, I inevitably segue the conversation into difficulties I have encountered when caring for people. It is a theme so ubiquitous in my mind, that I cannot stop blurting it out.

“In our current professional environment, decision making can no longer simply rely on what seems best for our patients. Among other things, we now have to consider patients’ litigatory tendencies. It is a reality which can be draining and difficult to switch off from, especially since we spend most of our days under pressure to carry out difficult decisions, the results of which have the potential to cause us grief.

“After researching the matter for my MSc in psychotherapy, I have found that these difficulties are driving dentists to consider career alternatives and early retirement. Increasingly, dentists are questioning whether they can sustain the mental fortitude to carry out a job they used to enjoy. But for those of you who do not want to give up just yet, what can you do?

“Let’s face it, external factors, such as the current system of NHS dentistry, are unlikely to improve any time soon. Therefore, we can only take a look inside of ourselves, in the hope of changing the way we choose to approach our work life.

“If you’re feeling a bit lost, choosing to develop your skills further, be it in dentistry or other areas of interest, could give your mind a new sense of focus and purpose. Stop to reflect on what causes you to feel a sense of achievement and pleasure. A few minutes of introspection, each day, may help you find clues into the right path for you.

“If feeling heard is what you need, seek out people who are willing to listen. A chat with a colleague, or a peer group where time is devoted to sharing your experiences, could help. But, if you feel that you cannot find the right support there, a professional trained in empathy and unconditional positive regard, a person centered psychotherapist, can be the right choice for you.

“However, if it is all too much for you, start small. Try to give yourself a break and switch off from the daily grind. Take a couple of minutes from each day to close your eyes and focus on your breath. Over time, this habit can help you feel more peaceful and more in control.”