Stress relief strategies for the new dentist
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.
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 ADA.org/student.
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 https://student.drbank.com/ADA.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.