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Dentist Heal Thyself

7 November2001

It is claimed in a number of studies that dentists’ suicide rate is significantly higher than the general population and many researchers have identified dentistry as the most stressful profession.

So now the Dental Council on New Zealand (DCNZ) has decided to do something about it.

The Council, along with the Dental Association of New Zealand, has produced a “self care” guide for dentists to help them identify when they have a problem and what to do to fix it.

The resource’s editor, Wellington dentist and deputy chairman of the Dental Council, Dr Jeff Annan, says dentists come under stress in many different ways.

“We’re not a ‘loved’ profession – although appreciated. And for many people, going to the dentist is a ‘grudge’ purchase – something they don’t want to do but know they have to.

“Dentists have to make many instant decisions about treatment and unlike doctors, on nearly every occasion when they treat a patient they are performing invasive work. There are also time-related issues, with dentists facing a constant battle to be on time ”

For new dentists joining the workforce student debt adds to the stresses dentists experience.

Other issues include anxiety over loss of good sight (important because of the concentration on fine detail and close work in dentistry), coping with medical emergencies, keeping up with new technology, occupational overuse syndrome and working relationships.

The Self Help guide helps dentists identify whether or not they have a problem, what kind of personality they have and outlines ways in which they can minimise stress in their lives.

But it is not only stress which impacts of dentists’ health and well-being. In a recent postal survey of more than 400 New Zealand dentists, more than 90 percent reported back or neck pain. Self care advice in this case is keeping fit and regular exercise.

The guide recognises that not all problems can be resolved through self care. Dentists, like medical practitioners, are five times more likely to become dependent on alcohol and drugs than the general population.

“There comes a time when people need to get help,” Dr Annan says, “The guide looks at what point people should seek help and what kind of help is available and appropriate.”

Self Care for Dentists has been delivered to all dentists in New Zealand with an Annual Practising Certificate.


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