The smile behind the mask – addressing mental health

Sorabh Patel emphasises the importance of prioritising mental health and resilience to ensure a healthy and productive career in dentistry.

Sorabh Patel emphasises the importance of prioritising mental health and resilience to ensure a healthy and productive career in dentistry.

In the vast landscape of healthcare, dentists hold the power to shape radiant smiles. However, often behind the masks and the beaming lights lies a story of unwavering dedication, unspoken challenges and a silent burden.

The mental wellbeing of young dentists is a topic that’s gaining the attention it deserves, and it’s essential to acknowledge the importance of mental resilience in this noble profession.

Unspoken struggles

For young dentists, it’s not just a journey of honing their skills but also a path that can be mentally and emotionally draining. The pressure for precision, long hours, the responsibility of patient care, and the ever-evolving nature of dental practice can become overwhelming. It’s a field where even the tiniest mistake can have significant consequences, and the pursuit of perfection can feel relentless.

Moreover, the burden of being good enough, the fear of legal disputes, and the challenges of establishing a practice can further amplify stress levels. As a result, young dentists often find themselves grappling with anxiety, depression and burnout. It’s vital to understand that addressing mental health is not a sign of weakness but rather strength and a testament to one’s commitment to delivering exceptional care to patients.

Mental resilience

Mental resilience is the cornerstone of a flourishing dental career. It’s about bouncing back from adversity, staying strong in the face of stress and maintaining a sense of wellbeing.

Building mental resilience isn’t a one-size-fits-all formula; it’s a journey that every young dentist should embark on. Here, I’ll share three proven techniques to nurture mental resilience and enhance mental health in the world of dentistry.


The first step in fortifying mental resilience is to embrace self-compassion. Dentists are often their harshest critics (I myself am guilty of this), and it’s easy to fall into the trap of self-doubt and self criticism, especially for young dentists who are still finding their footing.

Self-compassion entails treating yourself with the same kindness and understanding that you’d offer to a friend. It’s about acknowledging that making mistakes is part of the learning process and that it’s perfectly okay to seek assistance when needed. Self-compassion doesn’t mean lowering your standards; it’s about recognising your own humanity and embracing it.

When young dentists cultivate self-compassion, they become more resilient in the face of stress and setbacks. They are better equipped to handle demanding patients, technical challenges and the heavy workload. Moreover, self-compassion significantly reduces feelings of anxiety and depression, contributing to an improved mental state.

Mindfulness – finding peace

Mindfulness is a powerful tool for enhancing mental resilience in the dental profession. It involves being fully present in the moment without judgment. In a field where focus and precision are paramount, mindfulness can make a significant difference.

Practising mindfulness techniques, such as deep breathing exercises or meditation, can help young dentists stay composed and centred during stressful procedures. By learning to let go of past and future worries and immersing themselves in the present moment, they can reduce anxiety and enhance their overall mental wellbeing.

Mindfulness also leads to more sound decisionmaking, as it enables dentists to think clearly and rationally under pressure. It aids in preventing burnout and increasing job satisfaction, ultimately boosting mental resilience.

Support and open conversations

One of the most critical steps in building mental resilience for young dentists is breaking the silence surrounding mental health. It’s crucial to recognise that you are not alone in your struggles.

There’s a community of dental professionals who have experienced similar challenges and are ready to offer support and guidance. Opening up about your mental health is not a sign of vulnerability; it’s an act of courage. It’s also a testament to the strength it takes to care for others while also caring for yourself.

Seek out mentors or colleagues who can provide a listening ear and share their own experiences. Professional organisations and societies often have resources and support networks in place for dentists facing mental health challenges. If needed, consider seeking help from mental health professionals. Therapists and counsellors can provide valuable tools for managing stress, anxiety and depression.

Remember, asking for help is a sign of strength, not weakness.

Smiles begin from within

Nurturing mental resilience and enhancing mental health are crucial steps to ensure that these dedicated professionals can continue to provide exceptional care.

Self-compassion, mindfulness and seeking support are three proven techniques that can significantly impact the mental wellbeing of young dentists. By practising self-compassion, young dentists can navigate the demanding profession with kindness towards themselves. Embracing mindfulness techniques allows them to stay present in the moment and make clear decisions under pressure.

Opening up about mental health struggles, seeking support and fostering open conversations will help create a supportive environment where mental health is no longer a silent struggle. As we continue to applaud the beautiful smiles that dentists bring to their patients, let’s also acknowledge the significance of nurturing their own mental wellbeing.

Through these techniques and a commitment to building mental resilience, young dentists can continue to shine brightly in a profession that demands not only technical skill but also unwavering strength of spirit. Stay resilient, keep smiling and remember that your wellbeing matters.

This article first appeared in Dentistry magazine. 

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