Adapting to menopause in the dental practice

BADN menopause policy

Chief executive of the BADN Pam Swain discusses the impact of menopause on dental professionals and explains what employers can do to help this Menopause Awareness Month.

What is the menopause?

Menopause – from the Greek ‘men’ (month) and ‘pausis’ (pause) – means the end of the monthly cycles. Often referred to as ‘the change of life’ or just ‘the change’, it is the time in a woman’s life when menstruation (periods) stop permanently.

It is a natural part of ageing, and normally happens between the ages of 40 and 55, although it can also be brought on by surgery to remove the ovaries or the womb (hysterectomy).  A small number of people experience very early menopause, often in their late 20s.

As women age, the ovaries produce fewer eggs and the body produces less oestrogen. These falling levels of oestrogen can have a huge impact on the body, which can start to behave very differently. Many women experience symptoms, such as hormonal fluctuations and heavy/irregular periods, long before their periods stop, during what is called the perimenopause. Perimenopause often begins around the age of 40 and lasts, on average, four to five years.

In the UK, the average for women to reach menopause is 51. The average time for women to experience menopausal symptoms is five years – although some people experience some of the symptoms for the rest of their lives.

Symptoms of menopause

The physical symptoms can include (but are not limited to!):

  • Hot flushes/night sweats
  • Insomnia
  • Fatigue
  • Poor concentration (brain fog)
  • Headaches
  • Skin irritation
  • Urinary problems
  • Weight gain.

The negative impact of the physical symptoms and/or the hormonal imbalance can cause (again, not limited to):

  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Panic attacks
  • Mood swings
  • Irritability
  • Memory problems
  • Loss of self confidence.

Once a woman has not had a period for 12 consecutive months, she is considered to be post (after) menopausal. Post menopausal people have an increased risk of heart disease, diabetes and osteoporosis.

Why is this relevant to dentistry?

Because, as of 2021

  • 99% of 60,000 dental nurses
  • 96% of 800 orthodontic therapists
  • 94% of 8,000 dental hygienists
  • 92% of 4,000 dental therapists
  • 52% of 43,000 dentists and
  • 27% of 5,500 dental technicians

are female!

This means that out of the approximately 121,000 GDC registrants in 2021, around 95,000 (or 78.5%) are women.  According to data (Wellbeing of Women, 2016), one in four menopausal women consider leaving their job because of the lack of support and understanding from their employers.

Given the current recruitment and retention problems in dentistry – particularly in regard to dental nurses – the impact of nearly 24,000 registrants leaving dentistry is unimaginable!

Increasingly, women who have left their jobs due to lack of employer support are taking the matter to industrial tribunals under the Employment Rights Act 1996. This provides dismissed employees with two year’s service with the right to claim unfair dismissal. Employees who resign can claim that the behaviour and conduct of their employer led them to resign – in other words, constructive dismissal.

One recent case resulted in an employee being awarded £65,000 compensation after an employer failed to make reasonable adjustments when her role was affected by menopause symptoms.

The Equality Act 2010 states that employees have a responsibility to make reasonable adjustments to an employee’s role or working conditions if they have a disability which puts them at a disadvantage. Menopause itself is not a disability, but it can be considered as such if it has a substantial effect on a woman’s ability to complete daily tasks and lasts more than 12 months. And, of course, the Health & Safety at Work Act 1974, which covers working conditions, has also to be taken into consideration.

What can employers do?

Review the practice environment to ease menopausal symptoms – for example:

  • Provide cold drinking water
  • Make sure bathroom facilities are easy to access
  • Review uniform for comfort etc
  • Provide fans and/or air conditioning.

Discuss the working environment with menopausal colleagues and make adjustments, which could include:

  • Changing work location to allow better access to toilet facilities or a more comfortable temperature
  • Allow changes to uniform
  • Allow additional breaks
  • Assess workload at specific times of day
  • Allow flexible working hours.

Boost awareness:

  • Arrange menopause training workshops for management
  • Ensure all levels of management are trained on the effects of menopause, how to hold discussions with employees experiencing menopause and on adjustments which can be made to lessen the effects of menopause on employees
  • Make advice from reliable sources available to your team
  • Encourage a culture of awareness and support.

Review practice policies:

  • Sickness policies often include provision for long-term illness but not for regular short absences
  • Performance policies must take menopausal symptoms into account during performance reviews
  • Include a flexible working policy to allow flexible working times to support sleep disruption, for example.

Appoint a menopause champion – a member of staff who will:

  • Run workshops to raise awareness amongst the team
  • Liaise between employees and employers
  • Check that health and safety risk assessments cover different stages of the menopause
  • Set up support networks in house and locally with other practices
  • Signpost employees to further information and support
  • Maintain values of dignity and respect, and ensure information is handled sensitively.

Adopting a menopause policy

A final measure you can take is to adopt the British Association of Dental Nurses’s (BADN) menopause policy. It is endorsed by:

  • The British Association of Dental Therapists (BADT)
  • The British Society of Dental Hygiene and Therapy (BSDHT)
  • The British Dental Industry Association (BDIA)
  • The College of General Dentistry (CGDent)
  • The Dental Laboratories’ Association (DLA)
  • The Dental Technologists’ Association (DTA)
  • The Orthodontic National Group (ONG).

The policy is available to current BADN members for download from our website Hard copies are available by sending an A4 stamped addressed envelope with ‘meno’ written in the top lefthand corner of the outer envelope to:

Room 200,
Hillhouse International Business Centre,
FY5 4QD.

Professional associations can also provide support to employees experiencing menopause. If the dental nurses at your practice are not current members of their professional association, employers could pay for them to join (it’s tax allowable!).

For references email [email protected].

Dental nurses can join their professional association at All members of the dental team can sign up for BADN e-newsletters at the top of the home page (

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