Painting out stress in dentistry

art sessions for dentists

‘It’s necessary for my wellbeing’: Jenna Davies discusses how she is using her love of art to help the dental profession combat stress.

I had always enjoyed science and art in school. When I was 16, after doing work experience with my dentist, I decided to apply for dental school. I thought it was a good mix of using science and combining it with something that was hands on and, in many ways, artistic.

I graduated from Cardiff School of Dentistry in 2007 and completed my vocational training in Carmarthenshire, South Wales. I have been an associate in a few practices across south Wales and currently work at Old Oak Dental Practice in Carmarthen.

Art is something I have loved since I was a young child. Making art for me is part of who I am. It brings me a lot of joy and allows me to express myself creatively. I can get lost for hours in a drawing or painting and it takes me away from any worries I have. It’s necessary for my wellbeing.

There was a time when I neglected my creativity because I was so busy with work and didn’t have the energy. I think the real turning point for this was during COVID-19, where I had a lot more spare time. This actually allowed me to tap back into my creativity and it made me realise how important making art is to me.

Combatting stress in dentistry

It’s well known that making art has many benefits for our mental wellbeing and it has been shown that it actually reduces the stress hormone cortisol, even in people who don’t normally paint. It’s also a mindful activity which allows us to be more in the present, which can take our minds out of that state of worry we often experience.

Dentistry carries high levels of stress, often for prolonged periods of time and so it is really important to manage this stress in a way that enhances our mental wellbeing. Tapping into our creativity is one of the ways we can do this.

Art is a chance to embrace imperfection, loosen up and experiment a little. Perfectionism is a common trait in dental professionals, mainly because we want to do the best we can for our patients, but that can often bring high levels of stress, especially when we pile on unrealistic expectations.

I also find that as an artist, it makes me more observant of my surroundings and see those little things that sometimes we overlook when we are in a rush. I guess you could say that this could be helpful in dentistry when you’re looking for those subtle changes in shade or texture for example.

I came up with the concept of art workshops (called Artinis) for dental teams last year. The mission is to bring dental team members together for a team building event where they can connect outside of the workplace and have fun together.

art sessions for dentists

Dentistry can often be such a serious profession, so I want try and lighten things up a bit and give people a boost.

Teaching principles and skills

I also use art as a tool to teach a few principles relevant to dentistry, including communication skills, teamwork, collaboration and also to practice letting go of perfectionism and judgement. We can sometimes be so harsh on ourselves and self-critical in dentistry.

These workshops are all about enjoying the process which is where the joy comes from in art. Therefore, because I am able to put some of these learning outcomes into the workshops, team members can also gain three hours of CPD for taking part.

dentists with their art

I’ve worked with dental teams across South Wales as well as a group of dental foundation trainees on the Swansea and west Wales scheme for one of their study days. I’ve also had the opportunity of hosting a live art webinar with the Ikigai Oral Hygiene Community Group and NSK.

I would love to see art used as a tool that dental professionals can use, much like mindfulness and meditation, to improve their mental wellbeing.

Creativity in all its forms is so important.

Connect with Jenna on Instagram or join the Artinis Facebook group.

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