Dentistry burnout – reinvigorate your career

Dentistry burnout – reinvigorate your career

Matthew Hogg discusses burnout in dentistry and how dental professionals can protect their wellbeing going forward. 

There is no doubt the Covid-19 pandemic and modern life have taken and continue to take their toll on the wellbeing of dental professionals, as on most people.

The aim of this article, coming from the perspective of a complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) practitioner, is firstly to help you reconnect with dentistry, and secondly improve your own personal health and wellbeing, that of your team, and by extension patient outcomes and satisfaction.

I hope to open your eyes to learning and using evidence-based CAM therapies in both your daily life and your work, and to rekindle the flame that brought you to the profession to begin with.

As this author had no prior knowledge of the dental profession, thorough qualitative research was undertaken into what you have all been through and are still faced with.

Several of your colleagues kindly offered their time to comprehensively answer a short five-point questionnaire to provide me with insights into the daily professional and personal struggles you all face.

Timely communication

I also visited several clinics, dental technician laboratories, and milling centres. Those I corresponded with and spoke to included senior dentists, experienced hygienists, dental technicians, and clerical staff.

Suffice to say, numerous common themes affecting your work, health, and lives in general quickly became evident regardless of source. These primarily the result of a lack of clear and timely communication from government and the OCDO.

Common impacts include but are not limited to:

  • Confusion (re timing of dental services resumption, learning online consultation skills, implementing Covid measures, eg PPE, social distancing etc)
  • Feeling overwhelmed, burdened, nervous, and frightened
  • Loss of identity and personal connection with patients (due to PPE face coverings and social distancing)
  • Financial worries
  • Stress and development of mental health issues
  • Sleep disruption
  • Physical burnout
  • Longing or even ‘grieving’ for the normal day to day that vanished overnight.

Worryingly, a recent survey conducted by Dental Protection also found that two in five (37%) of young dentists (up to five years post-qualification) raised serious concerns about the impacts of Covid-19 on their mental health.

Turning poison into (complementary) medicine

The pandemic led almost everyone to turn inwards and examine every aspect of their lives, with career and life-purpose being one of the biggest areas of introspection. You have most likely been your own biggest critic and questioned the work you once loved.

A noble and essential profession by anyone’s standards. Nobody would judge you, with the industry being hit particularly badly and returning to work being hugely stressful.

Dental professionals should be valued, as all NHS staff have been, working long hours with compassion and the desire to help patients.

However, do not fall into the trap of fear and make rash decisions. Next, we will look at simple steps you can take to not only reduce your stress levels and improve your own personal wellbeing.

But the many exciting options CAM offers to make either working in dentistry a labour of love once again – or allow you to transfer your considerable existing skills to another life-affirming healthcare profession.

Benefit your team and expand your horizons

This article is primarily about helping you, the dental professionals, who are struggling with the stress, anxiety, depression, and physical burnout. Your colleagues I spoke to all expressed how important it was to feel valued, respected, listened to, and recognised, for their job satisfaction and general wellbeing.

It would be very easy to integrate ten minutes of meditation, breathing exercises, yoga, or even any of the CAM modalities (and more) which I outline below for use with patients, into daily morning team meetings.

I’ve no doubt once you all see the benefits, you’d be happy to get to work ten minutes early and carry the positive energy of such meetings into your days working with patients.

Free the mind

I would also encourage you all to explore the likes of yoga, pilates, and meditation classes outside of the work environment. Even getting out into nature, walking, jogging, or cycling, are greatly freeing for the mind and help in winding down.

I also encourage you to investigate professional one-to-one CAM therapies for any health issues you are dealing with personally.

When you find a therapy that really resonates with you, why not take the plunge, and learn to become a qualified practitioner yourself?

You would not regret it one minute, and a great place to start is the online learning platform – The Centre of Excellence ( – which has Complementary Medicine Association (CMA) and CPD accredited courses in every CAM modality you may have heard of, and even more that you won’t have!

Examples of CAM modalities ideal in the dental clinic setting

CAM therapies typically require a dedicated session of usually an hour in length. Yet many can be performed in a surprisingly short amount of time.

Even those that are usually lengthy (eg nutritional therapy) could easily be integrated into your existing patient sessions with some adaptation.

Or you could produce or source factsheets or point your patients to other resources, eg websites, apps, YouTube videos. Here are some evidence-based CAM therapies you could integrate into existing consultations:


Very helpful in reducing anxiety in patients with dentophobia (odontophobia), or before particularly invasive procedures.

Additionally, it is proven to reduce dental pain since the person is induced into the theta brainwave band; that between waking and sleeping consciousness.

Patients may therefore require less anaesthesia or pain relief medication, especially if taught ‘self-hypnosis’ or advised to use ‘guided hypnosis’ – available in many popular apps and music streaming services.


Simply put this is acupuncture, without the needles. Acupuncture is one of the most studied and efficacious of all CAM therapies, not to mention most accepted within traditional medicine.

Acupressure offers almost identical results for stress, anxiety and pain but is performed only by applying pressure to meridian points with the thumbs.

Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT)

You may not have come across EFT but it is another technique that makes use of Traditional Chinese Medicine’s (TCM) energy meridian system.

EFT involves ‘tapping’ (a name it is often known by) with two fingers on just nine key energy centres, six on the face and head, collarbone, under the armpit, and the side of the hand.

Although lower profile, it also boasts a wealth of efficacy and safety research, is simple to learn and teach, and can have profound benefits (eliminating stress, anxiety, and pain) often in literally a couple of minutes.


I’m becoming repetitive here, but again, reflexology is based on TCM’s meridians. This time the feet. Both the head (EFT) and feet (reflexology) contain meridian end points, which influence the entire body.

These, as with acupressure, are stimulated by applying pressure with the thumbs.

Reflexology is extremely popular, and patients report profound relaxation from the therapy, along with relief from anxiety, pain, and a multitude of chronic ailments (although Pubmed reveals more research is needed).


You may wonder how this could fit – but mindfulness and meditation take many forms.

Simple breathing exercises, typically long, slow breaths, are known to physiologically relax the body and quiet the mind by activating the parasympathetic nervous system, also reducing dental pain.

Relaxing music designed to facilitate CAM sessions, or simply asking a patient to focus on a constant sound (eg air conditioning hum) or focal point in their vision can also induce meditative states. The popular app ‘Calm’ is also very useful. Research on the benefits of meditation is, frankly, overwhelming.


You almost certainly advise your patients on their daily brushing and dental hygiene routine, along with some basic dietary no-nos. Why not study nutrition a little more so you can recommend foods high in nutrients beneficial to healthy teeth, gums, and an individual patient’s overall health.

Mobility or mental health issues may be preventing them from following your basic dental routine advice or eating healthily, so addressing these within your consultations, may negate the need for them to seek other help, whether their overburdened GP, an expensive nutritionist etc.

These are obviously just a handful of the therapies available in the world of CAM – it can be quite the ‘rabbit hole!’ But I wanted to give you a taste of the therapies I feel could be most easily integrated into your existing work.

Reigniting your passion for dentistry

I’m sure you’re aware of the enormous rise in the popularity of CAM and holistic approaches to healthcare over the past decades, including ‘holistic dentistry’.

Indeed, many dental professionals I’ve spoken to have already trained in at least one CAM modality and enthused about it.

However, you may not be aware of just how exponential the growth has been, and with it, the potential for skyrocketing clinic profits, job satisfaction, and patient satisfaction, for those who remain in dentistry and are able to tap into the public’s interest.

‘The global complementary and alternative medicine market size was valued at USD 82.27 billion in 2020 and is expected to expand at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 22.03% from 2021 to 2028’ – according to industry analysts.

Speaking here to clinic owners and partners; as a highly educated and trained medical professional you may have viewed this as a threat in the past. But just take a step back a moment and reset your mind.

Very positive change

Now, imagine if you were to integrate CAM therapies into your dental practice – whether used by yourself or a colleague during patient consultations – or as a separate offering on your premises. The world is your…‘gold-plated implant’.

For other dental professionals, many of you could run a very successful CAM practice from home alongside your dental job. This benefits your own health, your new clients’, and adding considerable value to your CV.

Your dental colleagues and patients would likely see a very positive change in you too; making dental work more enjoyable and satisfying again, after all the stress of recent times.

Integrative dental and CAM practice – the best of both worlds

So, if as a senior dentist or practice manager responsible for running a practice, you’ve considered retiring or changing professions due to the pandemic and stress of work.

Before you throw away your hard-earned reputation and brand. Why not leverage these assets, while also ‘tapping’ (there’s an EFT joke there for those paying attention!) into the huge market and demand for CAM from your patients; by integrating these therapies into your consultations?

Or even go ‘all in’ and offer in-house, hour-long sessions of various therapies? A win for you, your team, and your patients!

Using this model for your business you could train up your existing staff in CAM modalities, rent consultation rooms to established therapists, or employ them directly. The options are limitless if you become an ‘integrative dental clinic’.

Are you getting excited yet?

Likewise, for other dental professionals there is the home CAM clinic I’ve mentioned above.

Alternatively, you could explore your options and train in any number of therapies, then be an inside advocate for them to be introduced at your dental practice, with you in the driver’s seat.

This could be just to help your team with their stress and struggles or proposed as in the scenario above.

Moving on – building a CAM practice with transferable skills

If you try CAM therapies for your own health and are so impressed and excited by the results (which even the most sceptical often are), and after careful consideration, realise you are simply finished with dentistry; moving from your dental career to building a thriving CAM practice would be a surprisingly viable option.

Whatever your role in the dental profession, the skills and experience you have gained transfer over to a career in the CAM industry perfectly.

Most CAM practitioners are not taught business skills and lack the experience of building patient rapport and running consultations to a schedule; to name a few areas where your existing acumen would give you a huge advantage in leapfrogging the competition!

It can take newly qualified CAM practitioners a year to get setup in business and several further years to gain a name for themselves, or their brand, and begin making a satisfactory income.

You could use your existing brand or notify your client base of the change. Plus, use your considerable knowledge and experience of working in a healthcare profession to astutely transfer into a CAM career.

You would no doubt pickup those now all important online five-star reviews, to further market yourself. You could be earning a comparable income to your dental career in no time (depending on the therapy(ies) you choose).

The key takeaway is that your transferable skills make this a realistic option to at least have in your back pocket.


This has been an eye-opening experience for me. I had no idea what the dental profession had been through during and continually, post-Covid. The fault of the government, CDO and media.

I see great opportunities however, for both the integration of CAM into dental clinics, or much more collaboration between existing CAM professionals and the dental industry.

My biggest hope, however, is that many more of you will both utilise CAM for your personal and team’s health and wellbeing in these difficult times and explore training in the area.

As I hope I have shown, there are fantastic benefits in using complementary and alternative therapies for yourself and for your patients. If and how you choose to do so is now up to you. I wish you all the best on what is an exciting, positive, and life-affirming journey!

For references please email [email protected].

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