Depression among dentists (9 reasons why)

In this article, we will discuss depression among dentists, the possible reasons for depression among dentists, and how dentists can manage their depression.

Depression among dentists

It is not surprising to note that doctors, especially dentists, rank high among occupations where the employees have high levels of depression. Multiple studies conducted on dentists as well as dental college students have reported high levels of depression in them. In one particular study done by the Journal of the American Dental Association on 3500 dentists, the results showed that 38% of these dentists felt anxious and worried. 34% of the dentist stated to be physically or emotionally exhausted and 26% had frequent headaches and backaches. Clearly demonstrating the high level of depression among dentists.

Reasons for Depression among dentists

Here are possible reasons for depression among dentists:

  • Confinement to the small workspace area
  • Dentistry practice in isolation
  • The stress of perfection
  • Economical and financial pressure on new dentists
  • Long working hours and time pressure
  • The pressure of working with patients
  • Anxiety felt while treating a patient
  • The personality type of the dentist
  • Lack of physical activity

Confinement to the small workspace area

Most dentists are likely to work in small confined areas generally practicing alone. Being alone in a small area and not interacting with people other than your patients can be quite depressing for an individual. Being alone for most of the day is not a feeling that most of us enjoy. The lack of open areas around us can negatively affect our minds and make us feel confined. 

Dentistry practice in isolation

Many dentists have their own private practice generally in a small office. This can have quite a negative effect on their mental health as it can get quite lonely at times. Not having someone to interact with can make us feel alone. Especially if the dentist is staying alone and goes back to an empty apartment. Having a social group is quite essential for us to feel like we are a part of a group.

The stress of perfection

Dentistry is an occupation where the life of the patient is in the hands of the dentist and that can be quite stressful. The occupation requires the dentist to be perfect in the field of work which can be quite anxiety-provoking for the individual. The dentist cannot afford to make any mistakes and that puts a lot of pressure on them and on each and every treatment that they provide. 

Economical and financial pressure on new dentists

Dentistry college is quite expensive and most students take loans during admission. Slowly through practice and after the college gets over, they need to repay it. This puts a lot of economical and financial pressure on new dentists especially. At the beginning of their career, they are not making a lot of money and that to most of it going into loan repayment leaves them with a small amount. It can be quite depressing for the dentist to have to work so hard and still not be able to be financially secure.

Long working hours and time pressure

Most dental treatments take a lot of time and that leads to long working hours for the dentists. Balancing between appointments and walk-ins can put a lot of pressure on dentists. Dentists have long working hours and a pile-up of patients in the evening can put a lot of pressure on them to see the patient quickly but at the same time giving each of them enough attention and making an accurate diagnosis.

The pressure of working with patients

It is not easy to deal with patients and at times can get overwhelming for dentists causing depression among them. The pressure of working with patients and heeding to all the treatment demands can be quite frustrating. Ensuring that all the patients are satisfied and happy with the treatment is crucial to the practice. But it is not easy to be patient with them and be able to handle the pressure at the same time. 

Anxiety felt while treating a patient

Many dentists might feel anxious when treating a patient as they need to ensure that the patient is satisfied as well as providing them with an accurate diagnosis and proper treatment. Some patients can be difficult to handle and be very demanding making it difficult for the dentist to treat them. The anxiety and nervousness of making an accurate diagnosis for each patient can take their toll on the dentist and cause depression in them.

The personality type of the dentist

At times rather than environmental causes the personality of the dentist can also put them at a higher chance of having depression. Dentists who pay attention to every small detail might feel overworked and be under the pressure of being perfect all the time. Dentists who are unable to control and carefully express their emotions might feel difficult to be practical during their treatment. Another thing could be the dentist has unrealistic expectations of how he or she needs to perform under the situation and the amount of care they need to provide to their patient. Another personality trait that can cause depression is if the dentist puts their value and self-confidence and esteem on external attributes such as the amount of money that they make and the number of patients they have.

Lack of physical activity

A lot of dentistry practice requires dentists to have long working hours when performing procedures and surgeries on patients. With the lack of physical activity or exercise the confinement of a small please can cause depression among dentists. Not having an active lifestyle can be quite detrimental. Physical exercise and stepping out into nature can help dentists feel better and as a part of the outside world.

Techniques to manage Depression for dentists

Here are some management techniques for depression that can be used by dentists:

  • Improve your work environment
  • Becoming less isolated
  • Spending time with family and friends
  • Restricting working hours 
  • Making time for leisure activities
  • Taking a break from work when there is too much pressure
  • Learning to deal better with patient anxiety
  • Engaging in physical activity and exercise
  • Being compassionate towards self

Improve your work environment

For dentists, it is crucial to have a lively and open work environment that brings them joy. It is important to feel comfortable and happy in your workspace. Having indoor plants and open areas can be quite beneficial at providing the dentist’s peace of mind and happiness. Just having dull windowless walls can be quite depressing. 

Becoming less isolated

It would help promote better emotional well-being in dentists if they isolated themselves less in their office and spend time with their family and loved ones too. Opening clinics with other dentists or other similar healthcare professionals can be less lonely. Having strong social support that one can rely on is very crucial for staying hopeful during the depression.

Spending time with family and friends

After stepping out of their office, dentists should ensure to spend time with their friends and family members. It is important to limit your office hours and make time at home. The comfort and happiness of being among people that bring you joy are extremely important to help fight depression. 

Restricting working hours 

When you have your own clinic and are your own boss, setting a fixed working hour can be quite difficult. As you are bound to give in to the requests of patients to see them at odd hours or suddenly due to emergencies. It is therefore important to ensure that you have fixed working hours and limit your time in the clinic.

Making time for leisure activities

Having hobbies and leisure interests is essential and making time for the time even more so. One of the symptoms of depression is a loss of interest in pleasurable activities, so it is important to make time for them. Indulging in activities that once brought joy can be a reason to bring back that joy even now.

Taking a break from work when there is too much pressure

It is important for dentists suffering from depression to take breaks from work especially if it is becoming too stressful. Knowing when to stop and take a break is crucial while ensuring that there is no burnout from the employee’s side. It is important to give your work time but it is equally important to step away from it and go on a vacation.

Learning to deal better with patient anxiety

To overcome depression, a dentist should learn to better deal with patient anxiety. Ensure that the anxiety, nervousness, and worries of the patients do not negatively affect them and cause them to make errors. 

Engaging in physical activity and exercise

Going for a 30 minutes walk or run outside in a park can do wonders for the depression experienced by dentists. Engaging in physical activities and exercise like playing a sport or joining a gym can help.

Being compassionate towards self

Dentists need to be compassionate towards themselves and take care of their mental health and emotional well-being. Being kind towards one physical and mental health is necessary to overcome depression. Knowing that giving your best and working hard is more important than being perfect. 

In this article, we discussed depression among dentists, the possible reasons for depression among dentists, and how dentists can manage their depression.

FAQs: Depression among dentists

Do dentists have a high rate of depression?

Yes, dentists have a higher rate of depression as per the article published in the Journal of Affective Disorders. It found that dentists had the highest suicide rate of 7.18% as compared to other mental health professionals who ranked lower than that.

Which profession has the highest rate of depression?

The professions with the highest rate of depression are workers in the private and public transit, then individuals in real estate, social services, manufacturing, and personal services. All with high depression rates ranging from 14%-16%.

Is dentistry a depressing job?

Yes, dentistry is a depressing job as it is a high stress and anxiety-invoking job.

Can dental problems cause depression?

Individuals with depression are more likely to rate their teeth and oral conditions as fair to poor. Studies have also found high correlation levels between gum diseases and mood conditions like depression, stress, and anxiety.

Why are dentists suicidal?

A wide range of reasons is contributing to dentists’ high suicidal rate. They range from occupational stressors, substance abuse, economic pressure, loneliness, etc.

Why are dentists depressed?

According to studies, the reason for a dentist’s depression could be their highly stressful jobs, isolated and anxiety invoking work environment, and their personality type.


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