Self-deprecation is not an uncommon theme with dentists who have been in practice for over ten years. Though many dentists continue to love and enjoy dentistry the same way they did the first day they entered practice, there is clearly a high incidence of burnout in our profession. After pouring time, energy and emotion into their practices year after year, the shine may begin to wear off the apple. The initial excitement which accompanied dentists into their new careers is often replaced with cynicism and reality. This is a tough job, make no mistake. Most dentists experiencing these feelings of doubt and discouragement are often pushed further into the abyss by assuming they are the only ones dealing with these frustrations.
Just attend a sizable continuing education lecture and look around the room. It sometimes saddens me to see the expressions on the faces of so many dentists. There appears a look of dissatisfaction and learned helplessness that Pavlov’s dogs would likely have appreciated. The problem is no one talks about it. If this is happening to you, you are not alone. A big step in the right direction is to open up to a colleague you can trust. You might find that this dentist may be experiencing the same burnout and stress that you are. This person may also be very relieved to finally have someone else with whom to share these sentiments. Professional burnout is not unique to dentists, but affects medical professionals as well. If you do not have a relationship with another dentist where you would feel free to share some of your concerns, you might find it helpful to talk to a colleague in the medical profession who may have expressed similar sentiments.
Study groups exist that can serve to lessen the impression of isolation experienced by the dental professional. One colleague related to me that the Seattle Study Club had helped him overcome his feelings of professional burnout. This particular club has groups in many cities throughout the country and covers a variety of topics in dentistry. This simple interaction with, and shared experiences of, your colleagues can help to reduce the career exhaustion expressed by so many dentists.
Some of the text above is an excerpt from my book, Dentistry’s Business Secrets: Proven Growth Strategies for Your New or Existing Practice which is available here and on Amazon.