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Does Health and Wellness Have a Place in Dentistry? 

Absolutely!

by Denise Williams Jones

The Stress of Dentistry

Talk to most people who are not in our industry and ask this question: What is the first thing you think of when I say, “The Dentist” or “The Dental Office?” Most will answer, “the drill and pain” followed closely with the statement “I hate the dentist.” Seem harsh? Well, these comments stem from deep-seated fear. I am a Dental Consultant that has worked firsthand in a dental office for over 27 years and have heard this said on numerous occasions. Every time I hear this, it catches me off guard. That is until I remember that for some, opening your mouth for a stranger to put their hands and sharp instruments in can feel very vulnerable and invasive. We have become desensitized to our atmosphere. For the rest of the world, the reality of dental visits can be downright scary, and patients do not hesitate to let you know. The effect of these trending attitudes towards dentistry has some dental teams highly stressed and operating either on auto pilot or performing in full nervous tension mode. This cannot be good for our bodies, our mind, or team morale.  

The British Dental Journal published an article in January 2019 saying, “almost half of dentist say stress in their job is exceeding their ability to cope.” That means that the stress level is so high for some that it is affecting other avenues of their life. There must be a solution to help our industry.  

The Question is...Does Health and Wellness Have a Place in Dentistry?

A career in dentistry can be rewarding, however running a dental office is incredibly stressful mentally, emotionally, and physically. To start off, most dentists come out of dental school with huge student loans and so right away they want to work, work, work to start paying that debt off. Thus starts the mental stress before they ever open their doors. Next comes the emotional stress of managing a team from front to back office with all the different personalities and personal problems, paying the bills, keeping the supplies filled for the office, operating quality dentistry, maintaining happy satisfied patients and creating structure as well as being the leader for the team. 

Wait… we have not even talked about the physical demands on the body. Dentists and their team are in uncomfortable positions all day long which can result in back and neck discomfort. What about holding instruments and using drills in a repetitive motion for exceptionally extended periods of time, causing the whole body to hurt? After looking at all of this, the question remains, why are we not giving the needed attention to health and wellness in our industry?  

It is amazing to me how many dentists will invest in the top equipment for their office, pick a prime location to do business in, and bring their team to clinical workshops but do not ever think about investing in the wellness of themselves or their team. It is like they do not consider that this is a crucial factor in creating a first-class practice.  

Workplace wellness is an important investment just like any other investment. In fact, it can create a more valuable outcome than some clinical investments. Research shows that providing wellness in dentistry will reap the following results:  

  • Improved health of the doctor and team. When you are healthier, you experience more job satisfaction because you feel good. Thus, creating an amazing energy and culture in the office. 
  • A more engaged team. When you are engaged, you pay attention and connect with your patients in a more authentic way. People buy on emotion so how you relate to them will have influence in them completing proposed treatment or not. 
  • Fewer sick days. Happy healthy teams have greater attendance. When you feel good, you are less likely to miss work. When everyone shows up you get things done. You are more effective and spend less time catching up on things.  

Somehow, Dentistry Has Become Robotic and Sterile

Do not get me wrong, the office, operatory, and instruments should be sterile but that is it! When we are stressed and do not feel good or are in pain, we do not shine, smile, or laugh. It is all business and serious, i.e., sterile, boring, and not welcoming. Taking care of ourselves and being aware that wellness strategies are an important part of the practice can improve employee demeanor and the results will be productive and happy team members who are happy to interact positively with the patients. This is how wellness increases the bottom line.  

We need to start talking about health and wellness in the dental industry more. The days of pushing through mental, emotional, and physical pain and claiming that it just comes with the territory are over. Enough already! That mentality is what is giving dentistry a bad name. It is creating a “clinical only” atmosphere and the world is changing – no one wants to go somewhere that does not feel warm and comforting. Also, with a dentist every few blocks these days you will lose your patients to the next guy around the corner who is paying attention to the importance of creating a positive welcoming environment.  

There are so many different wellness strategies available aimed at helping you feel and perform at your best, but you must talk about it and set it in motion. This will look different for each office as some will decide to actively participate in a set structured program while other offices will create their own. The beauty of it is you decide which is best for your office based on the culture of your practice. 

There are events, programs, activities, coaching, health screening, increased physical activity, nutrition coaching, mental wellbeing, adjustments, stretching, getting more sleep, drinking more water, avoiding negative people in your life and the list goes on and on. The important thing is to do something. You are nurturing personal responsibility for your own health by incorporating a balance of overall wellness and this is the goal of having a wellness program.  

So, Back to My Original Question...Does Wellness Have a Place in Dentistry?

Absolutely! Doctor and employee wellness is essential to success. It improves productivity and performance. It gives you more energy and better engagement with patients. It lowers the risk of illness, and it improves teamwork. It influences the culture in the office with the purpose of creating a first-class practice and in the end, the bottom line. The list of benefits goes on and on. With something so positively aimed at helping you feel and perform at your best, how can you continue to ignore it?  

Hopefully after reading this, you cannot.  

Denise Williams Jones

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