How do we build happier careers?

With many in the profession fearing they must choose between their own wellbeing and keeping up with patient demand, Lizzy Holden explores how to balance those two needs successfully for a happier career.

The rise in mental health awareness is well reported within the dental profession. Despite this, little action is taken to help prepare dental students for such a high-pressure job and many report a lack of support while working in the dental practice.

Leaving dentistry due to high pressure and burnout has become all too common.

A recent Dental Protection study shows half of dentists are considering leaving the profession due to reasons of personal wellbeing. And 60% say it is difficult for them to take a short break from work.

Real Good Dental, however, is looking to support its workforce and recently hosted an event for its employees called Mental Health within Dentistry with Dr Mahrukh Khwaja.

‘We’ve had a few conversations with dentists and dental nurses previously and they’ve said they have struggled with their mental health,’ Lizzy Holden, social media manager at Real Good Dental, said.

‘Many dentists suffer from burnout, it’s a risk much higher than any other profession. It’s a statistic we want to tackle.

‘We care about our staff, we want to do better. We want our teams to feel better. So, this is the type of support we want to offer to our teams.

‘Now we’re offering Real Good Dental team members gym memberships, access to mental wellbeing apps, discounts for various wellbeing support. So, we’re trying to tackle it in a few different ways.

‘But it doesn’t stop here. We’d like to put on more events like this and we’re open to feedback too.’

‘Mental wellbeing is really crucial’

Reports of burnout within dentistry have only continued since the pandemic. That’s despite well-documented benefits including increased productivity, profitability, staff retention as well as the obvious improvements in self-worth and wellbeing.

The aim of the event was to give attendees the tools to better understand their mental health and recognise when to rest and focus on themselves. As well as giving them the tools to be more resilient to external forces.

With breakout sessions throughout the day, it gave delegates the opportunity to network, discuss their own experiences and help support each other.

‘I hope that delegates really get to experience positive psychology interventions and experiments throughout the day that they can carry out both in the practice and at home,’ Mahrukh Khwaja, dentist, positive psychologist and founder of Mind Ninja, said.

‘There are factors, organisational factors such as the high regulation from GDC and NHS targets, things that are outside our control, absolutely. That needs to change. But there are things that we can do.

‘The breakout activities during the day give delegates the opportunity to practise these positive psychology activities in a safe and welcoming space, and then go home with the intention of taking those activities up next week.

‘By interacting we also learn a bit more about other people’s experiences. We appreciate, we’re more connected than we realised.

‘Mental wellbeing is really crucial – we need to take a very active approach.

‘There’re things that dental teams can do that help really make a team thrive, and flourish. I feel that’s really exciting.’

Becoming more resilient

Recognising burnout is only one side of the mindset challenge. Building resilience is a skill that we can all practise and improve on.

‘Catastrophising’ is a common problem when something goes wrong – it encourages our minds to think of worst-case scenarios and worry about how we’re going to deal with situations that might never happen.

Dr Khwaja walked delegates through how to recognise when our mind begins to wander down this route and introduced techniques that can help to put things into perspective.

‘I’m so grateful that Real Good Dental hosted today. I’m not aware of other practices or other owners that provide this level of support,’ Ushadevi Vijayakumar, dentist at University Dental Care Edinburgh, said.

‘But I’m so grateful that they’re working with this on this.

‘I was keen to learn new techniques and have a change and break from my usual routine. And there are practical things I will definitely take away from today and implement in the practice.

‘Things like meditation, taking two-minute breaks to carry out breathing exercises with my nurses. It’s so important to help with our mindset.’

If you are looking for help to achieve and maintain clinical excellence for patients, as well as access to a network of experts to support you at every turn, please visit, email [email protected] or call 0131 374 7825 for further information.

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