Burnout 62e9399b3320b

Why dental professional burnout is real

Aug. 3, 2022
People are still trying to deal with the aftermath of the pandemic, among other stress factors, and they're becoming burned out in record numbers. What can you do to prevent it in your practice?

People are burning out at alarming rates. They feel constant demand to deliver, so they're leaving their jobs, aka "The Great Resignation," due to high stress and burnout. The pandemic has amplified this due to the unknown demands about the return to the office and/or working from home.

What causes burnout? 

For dental professionals, the pandemic created significant stress with the combination of reduced patient visits and then a backlog of patients coming in for dental care. With patients returning, dental pros discovered many peoples’ dental health significantly declined the past two years. 

Stress and burnout are particularly high among new dental graduates due to them finding out about the long hours it takes to run a practice.1 Many patients typically work the same hours that dentists want to work, the “9-5 window.” So, more patients request early morning, evening, or weekend appointments, which fill up quickly.

The administrative tasks required to run a dental practice are often underestimated by dental professionals, as highlighted in Kate Sheppard’s article “5 challenges dentists face in their careers.”2 Dentists are trained well on dental health, but unfortunately, most dental schools do a poor job on the business aspect of running an office. Dentists like to outsource or hire people to handle the administrative needs of their clinics, but with gigantic student loan debt and the costs of office space, equipment, dental assistants, and more, hiring administrative staff is often not an option, especially early in someone’s career.

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Patient complaints are a factor in dental office burnout. Many people do a lousy job of taking care of their dental health (and often their overall health too), and they blame everyone else for the state of their teeth. Rude patients who are upset about the doctor being late, inconvenient appointment times, and more create rude patient experiences, which impact the morale of the dentist and team. 

What you can do about burnout 

Whether it’s compassion fatigue or burnout, stress is the common outcome of both. Stress is taking a toll on your life, and you need to figure out ways to address it. There are different ways to go about it, but the key elements I advise you to pay attention to are:

  1. Get proper rest, keep a consistent sleep schedule, and eat properly.
  2. Get rid of clutter in your home if at all possible because it’s stressful figuring out where things are. 

Team morale impacts communication,3 and if your clinic has constant staff turnover and you’re always onboarding new talent, this impacts patient flow and quality of care. Supporting the needs of your team, no matter how big or small, will help you retain top talent and grow your practice. Continual review with your team on how to become more efficient and improve internal communication will go a long way in reducing burnout with you and your staff.4 

Editor's note: This article appeared in the August 2022 print edition of Dental Economics magazine. Dentists in North America are eligible for a complimentary print subscription. Sign up here.


  1. Kulkarni S, Dagli N, Duraiswarmy P, et al. Stress and professional burnout among newly graduated dentists. J Int Prev Community Dent. 2016;6(6):535-541. doi:4103/2231-0762.195509
  2. Sheppard K. 5 challenges dentists may face during their career. Oral Health Group. September 22, 2021. https://www.oralhealthgroup.com/blogs/5-challenges-dentists-may-face-during-their-career/
  3. Facilitating communication and collabortion among your team—a brief guide. Breakfast Leadership. August 19, 2021. https://www.breakfastleadership.com/blog/facilitating-communication-and-collaboration-among-your-team-a-brief-guide
  4. Why continual streamlining your business prevents burnout. Breakfast Leadership. June 23, 2021. https://www.breakfastleadership.com/blog/2021/6/23/why-continual-streamlining-your-business-prevents-burnout
About the Author

Michael Levitt

Michael Levitt is the founder and chief burnout officer of the Breakfast Leadership Network, a San Diego- and Toronto-based burnout consulting firm. He is a keynote speaker, host of the Breakfast Leadership show, a Certified NLP and CBT therapist, a Fortune 500 consultant, and author of his latest book, Burnout Proof. Levitt is a top 20 global thought leader on management, human resources, and culture, with Thinkers360, and a former health-care executive overseeing $2 billion budgets.

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