image courtesy of MindNinja.com
As part of our new Densura: on your side series, we look at ways of proactively helping our members, and what better way than sharing a recently published toolkit from Unilever and a former Densura and Friends guest of ours, Mind Ninja's Dr. Mahrukh Khwaja.
Stress and burnout in the dental profession aren't just buzzwords – they are real challenges that dental professionals face daily. The 'Well-being Toolkit for Dental Professionals' by Unilever, in collaboration with Dr. Mahrukh Khwaja, delved deep into these issues. At Densura, we believe that tackling these challenges head-on with proactive support and advice is not just beneficial, but essential.
We all have colleagues who have left the dental industry early, but more crucially, those that stay are being exposed to potential emotional exhaustion through burnout. According to the Toolkit:
[...] exhaustion experienced by burned-out dental professionals "may be responsible for irreversible clinical errors in up to 28% of individuals. These are due to either technical errors during procedures or lack of concentration. (11) The fear and anxiety that comes with making such errors can result in dental professionals modifying their practice by abandoning, delaying, deferring or avoiding the provision of treatments – or practising ‘defensive dentistry’. (13) As a result, working in fear of making an error and being sued is alarmingly common. Up to 9 in 10 dentists are in fear of being sued by their patients, over half make more referrals as a result and 74% feel like their fear led them to modify the services they believed they could offer. (14)
Dr. Mahrukh Khwaja and the Positive Psychology of PERMA-H in addressing burnout
Dr. Khwaja's journey is a testament to her commitment to wellbeing in dentistry. By merging her dental expertise with principles of positive psychology, she offers a fresh perspective on managing the intricacies of the dental profession.
Dr. Khwaja uses American psychologist, Professor Martin Seligman's model for gaining optimum well-being, PERMA – or later called PERMA-H. PERMA-H is a six-stepped structure for recognising and influencing parts of your life that are the route to well-being.
Here are the steps in short:
P for Positive Emotion: It's not just about fleeting moments of happiness but cultivating a consistent positive outlook. Positive emotions include joy, compassion, gratitude. Exercising these emotions daily has been proven to improve mood, and there are some tips for doing so in the attached Toolkit.
E for Engagement: Remember those moments when you're so engrossed in a task that time seems to fly? That's engagement. There is a thin line between being heavily in the flow, however (which could lead to exhaustion) and relishing the attention you're able to give a task.
R for Relationships: The bonds forged in a dental clinic, whether with colleagues, assistants, or patients, play a pivotal role in shaping your work environment. Nurturing these relationships can act as a buffer against the daily stresses of the job.
M for Meaning: Beyond the procedures and appointments, it's essential to recognise the profound impact of dentistry. It's not just about teeth but enhancing an individual's confidence, health, and overall quality of life. It's easy to lose sight of that in the long days, or years of practice.
A for Achievement: Every dentist has milestones, from the first solo procedure to the 1000th patient. Celebrating these achievements, big or small, can give a well-needed sense of purpose and motivation.
H for Health: The physical demands of dentistry are undeniable. Prioritising your health, whether it's through regular exercise, ergonomic practices, or adequate rest, is paramount to your longevity.
Densura: on Your Side
At Densura, we want to keep you operating at your best, long before you've even come close to needing our insurance services, which is why we enjoy sharing resources like these with you. Our 12-strong dental legal advisors are here to support and advise whenever you have a question, but whatever position you're in, you might enjoy using the worksheets in the Toolkit below – we certainly enjoyed looking through them.
In the dynamic world of dentistry, challenges are a given, but we want all our Densura members to navigate these challenges and emerge stronger, happier, and more fulfilled.
11: DPL. (2019) Breaking the burnout cycle. Available at: https://www.dentalprotection.org/docs/librariesprovider4/pdf/1907310561-au-dp-burnout-policy-paper-web. pdf?sfvrsn=c30e4ac_2. Accessed: June 2022.
13: GDC Mental health
and well-being in dentistry: a rapid evidence assessment. June 2021.
14: DPL. (2018) Dental Protection survey reveals 9 in 10 dentists fear being sued by patients. Available at: https://www.dentalprotection.org/uk/articles/dental-protection-survey- reveals-9-in-10-dentists-fear-being-sued-by-patients. Accessed: June 2022.