Stress relief strategies for the new dentist


Dr. Drew Byrnes finishes a marathon in March. He said running is one way he mitigates the stress in his life.

Dr. Drew Byrnes finishes a marathon in March. He said running is one way he mitigates the stress in his life.

Between finding a job, handling student debt loads and then managing a practice or learning the ropes as a staff dentist, new dentists can face an ocean of stress.

For Dr. Adam Shisler, a pediatric dentist in Houston, the “No. 1 stressor” is repaying dental student debt and facing down other financial decisions “that will set myself and my family up for long term stability and success,” he said.

Dr. Tricia Quartey, who started a solo practice in Brooklyn after finishing a residency, said the tension she feels often relates to her patients’ welfare (Will that crown fall off? Will he or she experience pain?) and staff issues (Will someone call in sick today? Will everyone get along?)

For Dr. Drew Byrnes, a University of Florida College of Dentistry graduate, stress came in the form of starting his career as an associate. There were times he had to navigate conflicts with his employer, he said.

“We would sometimes disagree on the best way to treat patients,” he said.

Dr. Byrnes, who now runs his own practice in Winter Park, Florida, said the career transition introduced new stressors, including paperwork, billing and marketing of his practice, which he took over from a dentist who wanted to retire.

“Running the business side of things is an area they do not spend much time on in dental school — there is already enough to learn in dental school about dentistry,” Dr. Byrnes said.


Dr. Tricia Quartey said taking dance classes is one way she copes with worries related to running her dental practice.

Dr. Tricia Quartey said taking dance classes is one way she copes with worries related to running her dental practice.

The ADA Center for Professional Success is one resource new dentists can use to find expert information and advice regarding dental practice management. The website also offers resources on mental health, featuring interviews and tips from experts on topics including how to recognize the physical and mental impact of stress and how to manage negative stress; general well being in the dental profession and how to reduce stress, among other topics.

Furthermore, the ADA provides information on dental student loan repayment programs and resources that offer student loan repayment assistance. To learn more, visit

Dr. Shisler was able to refinance his student loans through an offer with the Texas Dental Association. The ADA last year announced an exclusive offer through Darien Rowayton Bank. To learn more about that offer, visit

Dr. Quartey said the challenges of day-to-day dentistry come into context when she surrounds herself with friends.

“I try to live in the moment and not worry about things I can’t change,” said Dr. Quartey, who graduated from the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey, adding that she turns to friends to whom she can “vent” frustrations. She also spends a lot of her free time running or taking dance classes to burn off steam.

Dr. Byrnes also said that exercise, and especially running, is a way he copes with anxious feeling. In March, he ran a marathon.

“Running marathons is not for everyone (it is only for the crazy ones, like me),” Dr. Byrnes joked, “but try to find something that gives you peace and reduces stress in your life.”

And don’t forget the value and power of social support, new dentists said.

Dr. Byrnes turned to other dentists, mentors and dental podcasts to help him navigate answers to business questions he had when he first opened his practice, he said. The same goes for Dr. Shisler, who said finding a reliable mentor has been crucial to his professional success.

“Sometimes you feel like you’re isolated. You’re the only who’s ever failed on some sort of filling or crown,” said Dr. Shisler. “Many people have the same challenges. Experienced dentists can help offer some perspective on that from someone who’s been there.”

Dr. Shisler said he encourages new dentists who lack mentorship try attending a local study group or other event associated with their local or state dental association to meet others.

“It can prevent a lot of issues,” Dr. Shisler said of turning to friends, family or other dentists for support. “It gives you that external magnifying glass; you’re not the only one who’s ever had these challenges. In the end, you’ll be OK.”

For more information about ADA resources regarding mental or physical health issues, email Alison Bramhall, ADA manager of dentist health and wellness, at


  • Cardio exercises a minimum of 4 days per week after work has done wonders for me.

  • yes i am agree with the above words that the cardio exercises really helps us to get over to the stress.

  • Spot on. It is a brilliant article and so many of my colleagues could benefit from it if they read it. Yoga, meditation (Pranayama) and running keeps me grounded.

  • Steffany Mohan

    Tips that you have given are really informative and intriguing .Dentistry is considered one of the most stressful of the health professions. Successful practice is one where effective stress management strategies are firmly in place. This contributes to the atmosphere of well-being and competence within the practice. Its positive effect emanates throughout – the staffs feels valued and motivated and the patients feel more relaxed and welcome. It’s a ‘win-win’ situation for all concerned. Working in clinical dental hygiene can be stressful. Laughter relaxes the body and strengthens the immune system. Making light of situations and finding humour in them also eases stress. A positive response to stressors starts with a healthy lifestyle, including getting enough sleep, making time for fun, eating well, and managing time efficiently. Time management techniques can be incorporated into daily lifestyle to balance work and home responsibilities.

  • Amazing post with an enormous amount of knowledge. Completely agree with all the facts mentioned.

  • Exercise and meditation is what’s keeping me healthy and organized! I’d freak out otherwise…

  • Running has been mostly successful for me for stress reducing. Even a couple a sessions a week of slow running or jogging did wonders for me. So did socialising on weekends with some dear friends of mine. I guess most of people have no idea of what kind of stress is involved in the profession. Establishing a balanced diet also helped, I think, especially removing sweet drinks from my daily nutrition intake. Glad to see others had found their own way to cope. Great article!!!

  • Nice and very informative post. in Current situation this strategist are very helpful to peoples. thanks to share with us.

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