Is work-life balance a myth? 5 Tips to Keeping Yours

Avoid burnout by prioritizing your health and happiness.

Dentistry offers a rewarding career for many, but it can also come with unique stress. The dental profession is known to have one of the highest rates of career burnout because of its financial pressure and responsibilities of being a solo practice owner. In fact, one study found over 84% of dentists experienced feelings of burnout throughout their careers. 

Instead of struggling, find a work-life balance that fits your lifestyle. Dental practice ownership can cause burnout for any dentist, but it is often linked to specific work-related factors, like administrative duties and staff issues. The most common contributing stress factors include a high patient workload, financial issues, a lack of a professional support system, management of staff, and the physical stress of dentistry. 

Here are 5 tips to help you maintain a quality, long-term career in dentistry.

1. Create a motivating dental culture.

Dentists spend quite a bit of time with their staff, so it is important to create a positive work environment. This can mean engaging with your team during lunch or outside of the office for team building activities, but try to develop a practice culture that gives you a sense of meaning. 

When you hire staff, remember that you want those people to want to be there. While it can be stressful to find dental team members, sometimes it’s worth the wait for dental staff who are upbeat, motivated, and want to help advance your office.

It takes a lot of patience and good communication to run a successful practice. Your team’s attitude will reflect in your team culture and how your patients perceive your office. While you are the “ringleader” of the office, it is really your administrative and clinical staff that spend the most time with your patients and can impact the direction of your practice. A well-run office will reduce your overall stress and create a work environment that is healthy for all employees. 

2. Connect with other professionals.

Density can be an isolating field if you are a solo practitioner. Many dentists report that there is a lack of a professional support system after dental school. Instead of burdening yourself with stress, join a professional study club or organization like the American Dental Association (ADA) to connect with other dentists who have similar responsibilities. 

Dental practice ownership is a high risk and emotional profession and working as a solo dental owner can impose many demands and responsibilities that can lead to an isolation-driven attitude. When you reach out to other dentists through continuing education courses, dental meetings, or even virtually, it can help create a more inclusive feeling in the dental field. 

3. Balance your work-life by diversifying your career goals.

After many years of practice, many dental professionals are burned out. The stress of clinical practice, both mentally and physically, can take its toll. Some general and pediatric dentists need to widen their scope of practice through activities, such as taking a continuing education course with the American Orthodontic Society. This can help dentists incorporate orthodontics and offer providers an incentive to improve production.

 Fortunately, the dental profession offers several alternative career options outside of private practice. 

  • Dental instructor: Dental schools and residency programs need motivated instructors to teach students didactic and clinical instruction. It is a great way to stay up-to-date with the newest education, guidelines, and technology.
  • Community work: Many hospitals and schools offer community dental programs for people who have less access to dental care. Some programs are paid while others are volunteer based. Both offer a good opportunity to get involved with the local community and help educate people on good oral health care habits. 
  • Public health: The ADA and other major dental organizations are constantly trying to improve dental guidelines and standard of care for patients and providers. Organized dentistry promotes ethical health programs and can impact the day-to-day operations in your own private practice.
  • Insurance: Many dental insurance companies need dental consultants to evaluate and review claims for other offices. Many dentists can work remotely and use this position as a great gateway to retirement or limiting clinical practice hours. 

4. Balance your work-life by investing in yourself outside your practice.

Dental professionals must make time for themselves outside of practicing dentistry. You need to carve out time for family, friends, hobbies, and explore other ways to improve your quality of life and maintain a healthy work-life balance. Many dentists will invest in continuing education outside of their scope of practice for both professional and personal interests. 

Regardless of what your interests are, manage your stress by balancing work and your personal life. Set a schedule of “me” time where you can exercise or block out your calendar in advance to take a family vacation. You will appreciate your career more by making yourself and your mental health a priority. 

5. Speak to a professional 

Sometimes it is beneficial to seek professional mental health about stress management and how to balance a work-life schedule. A dentist, or any professional, can learn strategies for coping and how to develop a clear perspective about what type of work-life and even work-family balance they desire. 

Dentists who work in highly stressful environments, such as a solo owner or an associate, may find other paths or career options that can reduce pressure. Some dentists will work with a dental consultant to improve their practice while simultaneously working on how to balance their career and personal life. 

Dentistry is a highly demanding career, both mentally, physically, and financially. Instead of experiencing burnout after a few years of practice, dental professionals need to utilize tools like dental practice management to find the appropriate lifestyle and work-life balance they want. If you’re looking to broaden your horizons and expand your skill set, check out these continuing education courses run by the American Orthodontic Society. You may find a new career niche that refreshes your passion for dentistry!

To learn more about our popular orthodontics courses for pediatric and general dentists, check out one of the upcoming events below.

1st Session: April 26-28, 2024

AOS Institute
1785 State Highway 26
Grapevine, Texas 76051

July 19-21, 2024

AOS Institute
1785 State Highway 26
Grapevine, Texas 76051

August 23-24, 2024

AOS Institute
1785 State Highway 26
Grapevine, Texas 76051

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