Why friendship is so crucial in dentistry

Why friendship is so crucial in dentistry

Shruti Chopra explains why friendship is key when it comes to thriving in the field of dentistry.

Dentistry is often linked with clinicians feeling emotional exhaustion after a busy week of treating patients clinically. Many of my friends and colleagues regularly say they feel stressed after difficult patient encounters and consequently they question their own personal efficiency and accomplishments. These symptoms are commonly referred to as burnout, a term introduced in the early 1970s by Freudenberger. It is well documented that healthcare workers seem to be at particular risk of burnout and unfortunately this can have a negative impact on both our professional and personal lives.

Happiness is crucial in our overall wellbeing. Surrounding ourselves with people that make positive contributions in our lives is important for our spiritual, emotional and mental wellbeing. Having the support of a strong group of friends and colleagues can positively impact our self belief and competence. They can help to increase our sense of belonging and purpose, improve our self-confidence, and help us cope with work related stress.

The American Psychological Association has found that high quality adult friendships that provide social support and companionship can help to protect against depression and anxiety. Friendships can help change the way we respond to stress. By confiding in friends, we receive not only personal support but also guidance and reassurance. Adults with meaningful relationships and social support are likely to live longer than people with poor quality friendships who are said to suffer with adverse health conditions and be at risk of premature death.

Muhammad Ali summarises friendship as: ‘Friendship is the hardest thing in the world to explain. It is not something you learn in school. But, if you haven’t learned the meaning of friendship, you really haven’t learned anything.’

Close-knit community

The benefits of friendship are well documented; however, it is not always easy to develop or maintain friendships. We all have busy personal and professional lives and sometimes it may be difficult to keep up with existing friendships as they may take a back seat to other priorities.

Friendships can often develop with people who are already in our professional social network; perhaps people we have worked with or studied with. We often find that dentistry is a close-knit community so it may be worthwhile to reconnect with old friends or reach out to peers and colleagues through organisations or networking platforms. By building strong empathetic connections with people we enhance individual and collective emotional wellbeing.

Peer support is crucial to wellbeing and mental resilience. Having a mentor, supportive colleagues or trusted network is important. By having an informal chat with colleagues, clinical concerns can be addressed confidentially. They can provide sensible suggestions and positive support which is vital when dealing with patients on a daily basis. By nurturing friendships at work, we can not only support each other but also offer different options as ultimately, we all want to prioritise patient care. By working together, we can nurture and build a collaborative community where we feel safe and supported.

It is important to remember that friendship does not have place for judgement. Individual ethics and principles need to be valued and respected. Genuine friends and colleagues like to see each other succeed and flourish. They can inspire us to live up to our best potential and to not give up at the first hurdle.

Invest in friendships

Through the development and maintenance of healthy friendships in a professional context, we create an environment centred on connection, safety and community. This is key to emotional wellbeing and ensuring that as a team we work in alignment with each other’s ethics and values.

We have a platform to manage stress, interact with each other and make sound clinical decisions. Anxiety related to daily working practices can be reduced as collectively we can support each other. It is important to remember that friendships are built upon trust, kindness, communication and transparency.

Building friendships takes time and effort but it’s never too late to develop new friendships or even reconnect with old friends. By investing in our friendships we can enjoy better health and reduced levels of unhappiness and job dissatisfaction.

Follow Dentistry.co.uk on Instagram to keep up with all the latest dental news and trends.


The role of friendships in well-being
Fehr, B, & Harasmychuk, C. In Maddux, J. E. (Ed.), Subjective Well-Being and Life Satisfaction, Routledge, 2017

Adult friendship and wellbeing: A systematic review with practical implications
Pezirkianidis, C, et al., Frontiers in Psychology, 2023

What prevents people from making friends: A taxonomy of reasons
Apostolou, M, & Keramari, D, Personality and Individual Differences, 2020

Get the most out of your membership by subscribing to Dentistry CPD
  • Access 600+ hours of verified CPD courses
  • Includes all GDC recommended topics
  • Powerful CPD tracking tools included
Register for webinar
Add to calendar