Is stress holding you back?


  Posted by: Dental Design      12th March 2020

Work stress is nothing new. After all, it’s not unusual to open the news and see article after article about how stress is affecting everything from our physical and mental health to our diets, sleep patterns and more. It’s likely you’ve even seen these articles centred around dentists as well – but what about other members of the dental team?

Dental hygienists and dental therapists have stressful roles too. As such, it’s important to see whether stress is affecting the way you work, and get the necessary help you need in order to prevent excess stress from becoming a problem.

 Stress in dental hygiene and dental therapy 

According to research, as many as one out of every eight dental hygienists feel stressed and emotionally overwhelmed by their work. The study found that the most common factors impacting stress levels were musculoskeletal pain, difficulty balancing work life with personal life, tricky patients and professionals feeling like they had a lack of support from their workplace.[i]

A further piece of research suggests that stress rates in the profession are even higher – with 67% of individuals in these roles reporting that stress caused by work schedules was impacting their ability to provide care.[ii]

In many ways this makes sense – time constraints are a huge drain on all dental professionals. However, the other key thing to focus on in the aforementioned reasons is the lack of support. Dental hygienists and dental therapists often lead transient working lives between multiple practices, meaning that they may not have the same support available to them as other dental professionals who work in just one location.

The impact of this is substantial. By moving between multiple workplaces it’s easy to see how stress can build. Each dental practice has a unique staff team, different patient lists and different demands. This can quickly cause people to feel emotionally exhausted, especially as it may be more difficult to form close bonds with your colleagues if you don’t work with them full time. Furthermore, patients can also be more difficult to handle if they feel like seeing the same dental hygienist or dental therapist. This is because doing so may be a hassle due to time constraints dictating appointments. For example, if you only work in a practice on a Tuesday, this can annoy patients who need to see you if Tuesday is not a convenient day for them. This means that when they do finally organise to see you, they may be more inclined to be rude or unpleasant.

Why stress matters

Of course, the problem with all of this is that extended periods of stress can quickly lead to burnout. Stress burnout is typically associated with a lack of motivation, exhaustion, poor creativity and other negative feelings such as the lingering doubt that colleagues don’t like you or that you are not worthy of your position.[iii]

This is highly damaging, as not only could it result in a lower standard of patient care, but you can also hold yourself back. In turn, this could end in you failing to expand in your career, simply because you feel like you are too exhausted to explore new ways to develop your skills, or because you are apprehensive and feel like you have inadequate support.

Share your experiences

Stress relief methods will work differently from person to person. In your personal life there are always the options of meditation, exercise, essential oils and other ways that can help to calm your mind. However, it’s a good idea to delve into why your work is causing you to feel stressed in the first place.

To combat time restraints, is it worth seeing if you can rearrange your schedule or can discuss this problem with your scheduling coordinators/practice managers. It’s always better to see fewer patients but provide them with the proper care they need than to see too many, feel overwhelmed and possibly leave yourself open to litigation.

Another way to combat stress is to find the overall support you need. By joining a community such as the British Society of Dental Hygiene and Therapy (BSDHT) you will instantly gain access to a caring, understanding shoulder to lean on, comprised of professionals who are in the same boat as you. The Society offers advice via email or telephone and can help on all matters. It also grants members unique perks such as bespoke indemnity plans, tailored CPD and preferential rates to certain events which are integral to developing your career further.

Take a step forward

If stress is getting you down, there is always a way to beat it. By finding the support you need and taking the time to alter your work schedule, exploring stress relief methods at home and being open about your experiences, you can move forwards with your career without the risk of burnout.


For more information about the BSDHT, please visit

call 01788 575050 or email


[i] Gorter, R. Work Stress and Burnout Among Dental Hygienists. Int J Dent Hyg. 2005 May;3(2):88-92.

[ii] Dentistry IQ. Career Satisfaction Survey: Coping With Stress. Link: [Last accessed October 19].

[iii] Very Well Mind. How to Tell You Have reached the Point of Burnout. Link: [Last accessed October 19].

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