Amidst all the noise the Covid pandemic is making these days, there’s one silent pandemic that is rampant amongst dentists – stress. Though our jobs demand to create those perfect, everlasting smiles, we find ourselves scowling at our own lives. This is because our profession is filled with various challenges which we face days on end year in year out.
Challenges Faced by the Dentist
Broadly, we can divide the challenges into 3 categories:
1. Physical challenges: A whopping 62% of the dentists have reported at least one musculoskeletal complaint, 30% chronic complaints, 16% had spells of absence and 32% sought medical care. Dentists end up working for long hours with a stooped posture. Self-reported factors of physical load were associated with the occurrence of back pain, shoulder pain, and hand/wrist pain. 1
Pyschosocial stresses experienced by the dentist are much higher than the general population. The work is limited to a narrow space in the oral cavity with dental instruments which require high precision and technical excellence. Moreover, the noise generated by the machines used in the dental setup, along with the undying smells of the various dental materials and disinfectants, becomes overwhelming to the sense organs and affects the mental health of the dentist.2
2. Patient Challenges : The high esthetic demands and time limitations set by the patients and our persistent desire for remaining clinically relevant like our contemporaries also creates stress amongst many dentists. There is risk of exposure to radiation, infections [Covid 19 and various viral infections including Human Immunodeficiency virus (HIV), Hepatitis], respiratory disorders, eye insults and dermatitis.3
3. Personal challenges: More often dentists end up working long hours without taking a break for themselves, taking into account the financial and social pressure created due to various social networking websites.
Another major challenge is to be accommodative with the employees and clinic staff because more often than not, we would find that the personality traits of a dentist are perfectionism, extreme focus, emotional control, and high (and often unrealistic) expectations of themselves, their associates, and their patients.
So, in a nutshell, stress is because of too little time, too much to do, and too little energy! The time and workload are going to remain constant. What we can change is our energy levels and here are some ways to do so!
10 Tips to Keep Calm as a Dentist
1. Plan and prioritize
Many times at work, multiple issues need immediate attention – all at the same time. This leads to tension and stress. To begin stress management, it is recommended to start planning and avoid procrastination. Learn to plan and prioritize. Only a relaxed mind can plan and organize a day well.
2. Move more:
Take a 15 minute break for every 45 minutes of working in the clinics.
Get up and move about in the clinics or if the space is too less, march on the same spot.
Do a few sets of heel raises. Perform up to 10 reps of stand-and-sit exercises, where you rise from a chair without using your arms and then sit down again to complete one rep.
Relax your shoulders, neck, and back by doing some desk stretches to relieve the aches and pains.
Regular physical activity for 150 minutes a week has shown to have incredible effects on the mind and body. Exercise plays a vital role in building and maintaining strong muscles and bones. It reduces persistent fatigue and promotes good sleep. It produces changes in the parts of the brain that regulate stress and anxiety to improve our mood and decrease feelings of depression, anxiety and stress.
Exercise promotes the production of endorphins, which are known to help produce positive feelings and reduce the perception of pain. Interestingly, our moods can benefit irrespective of the intensity of workout! 4,5
4. Know breath, know life! No breath, no life!
Breath as a mechanism to support life. Every incoming breath fills us with energy and every outgoing breath relaxes and cleanses our system.
Breath as a mechanism for recovery. Frequency, depth and smoothness of breath reflect our physical and emotional state. If we learn to use our breath properly, it can help us to be relieved and be free of any disease. The surface area of our lungs exceeds the surface area of our skin by many times, so it can eliminate more toxins out of our system.
Pranayama, or yogic breathing, is a unique method for balancing the autonomic nervous system and influencing psychological and stress-related disorders. Sudarshan Kriya uses specific cyclical, rhythmic patterns of breath to bring the mind and body into a relaxed, yet energized state. 6 You may try these techniques to be conscious of your breath and see their benefits for yourself.
Sleep deprivation is the biggest bane to the civilized society. There are innumerable effects of sleep deprivations and it dumbs you down. It directly affects our cognitive processes like reasoning, attention, alertness and problem solving. Insomnia has the strongest link with depression.
The classic story of sleeping beauty where the princess was extremely beautiful was because she “slept”. Studies have shown a direct link of sleep deprivation and aging.7,8,9 A good eight hour sleep is far more effective than any other remedy for calming down our system.
Researches have shown that the benefits of meditation set forth by ancient yogis are beginning to be supported by medical technologies like MRIs and EEGs, proving the effects of meditation on improving our mental health, changing our brain, and even affecting our genes.
Manage negative emotions: It is clear that we are experiencing the physical, emotional, mental, and social repercussions of sustained stress. Multitasking has become a way of life, resulting in many stress-related emotions like anxiety, depression, anger, fear, and insecurity. Research suggests, however, that practicing meditation can help with managing these negative emotions.
De stress : Meditating for twenty minutes daily will take care of the mind, body, and spirit, allowing us to become more happy and energetic.
7. Don't be afraid to unplug:
Cutting ties with the outside world and being with mother nature gives us space for creativity to emerge. The practice of silence – of consciously withdrawing our energy and attention from outer distractions – has been used in different traditions throughout time as a pathway to physical, mental, and spiritual renewal. By practicing this, we experience an extraordinary sense of peace and renewed vitality that we carry to our workplace with us and into daily lives.
8. Customize your diet plan
- We are the best judge of our body and schedule. Light and frequent meals are ideal as they keep the metabolism rate high. This increases our energy levels. We may eat five to six light meals or three heavier ones on daily basis.
- When junk food is not readily available, we will be less tempted to consume it. Keep healthy snacks handy for those in-between cravings.
- Don’t skip meals. Working on an empty stomach increases frustration, irritation, and stress. We also tend to seek shortcuts like fast food to fill our stomach – not a good idea at all!
9. Keep good company
Limit time wasting activities and people. Spend more time with people you care about.
10. Stop perfection from running your life
Perfectionism becomes a career limiting behavior as we move up in our practice. Applying ultra-high standards to everything is usually a sign of insecurity and brings negative reputation along with it.
Perfectionism is often a way to make sure you don’t fail. To get over this, it’s best to look at the worst case scenario, and how (un)likely it is to occur. Realize that there’s probably something you can do in that remote situation anyway.
Even if you’re a champion catastrophizer too, then it’s helpful to list out all the worst things that can happen versus the most likely scenario. Then talking them through with someone you trust is even better (preferably not a fellow perfectionist!). Getting those dark thoughts out in the fresh air takes away their potency.
Hope these tips help you to keep calm at work. Here’s wishing you a happy and stress free life!
1. Evangelos C Alexopoulos, Ioanna-Christina Stathi, Fotini Charizani.Prevalence of musculoskeletal disorders in dentists. BMC Musculoskelet Disord. 2004; 5: 16.
2. Kyung-Won Song, Won-Seok Choi , Hee-Jung Jee , Chi-Sung Yuh , Yong-Ku Kim, Leen Kim , Heon-Jeong Lee ,Chul-Hyun Cho. Correlation of occupational stress with depression, anxiety, and sleep in Korean dentists: cross-sectional study. BMC Psychiatry 2017; 17:398
3. Jamshid Ayatollahi, Fatemah Ayatollahi, Ali Mellat Ardekani, Rezvan Bahrololoomi,Jahangir Ayatollahi, Ali Ayatollahi, Mohammad Bagher Owlia. Dent Res J (Isfahan). 2012 Jan-Mar; 9(1): 2–7.
4. Ipek Ensari , Brian M Sandroff , Robert W Motl. Effects of single bouts of walking exercise and yoga on acute mood symptoms in people with multiple sclerosis. Int J MS Care. Jan-Feb 2016;18(1):1-8.
5. Elizabeth Anderson , Geetha Shivakumar. Effects of exercise and physical activity on anxiety. Front Psychiatry. 2013 Apr 23;4:27
6. Zope SA, Zope RA. Sudarshan kriya yoga: Breathing for health. Int J Yoga. 2013;6(1):4-10. doi:10.4103/0973-6131.105935
7. William D S Killgore. Effects of sleep deprivation on cognition. Prog Brain Res.2010;185:105-29.
9. Andrew A. Monjan. Perspective on Sleep and Aging. Front Neurol. 2010; 1: 124.