Stress

The reasons are many:

Most dentists sit at the dental chair for about 28 hours a week.


Patients demand painless and empathetic care in an extremely difficult and sensitive field of work.

They complain about errors and shortcomings - even when they themselves have opted out of professionally correct treatment.

They complain about the price and want cheaper alternatives that do not always meet the professional standards we ourselves want to be known for.

The public authorities keep an eye on us to make sure we don't exceed the standards set by collective agreements and crack down on even the smallest deviations.

The health authorities give the impression that they are looking over your shoulder and strike down even on the smallest error. Once they have given us a verdict, it is without appeal.


Man lying on the floor, covered with yellow post-it notes with endless to do lists

We forget ourselves

This post is about how we often neglect ourselves and our personal desires and dreams. What we need to do about it, to achieve the life we dream of both in our private lives and as dentists.


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What are the right solutions?

There are a lot of potential solutions that can help make the above examples easier to handle. We can set up systems that make us more efficient and learn how to better communicate with our patients in a way that makes them want to invest in the care they need. Etc. etc.


We can learn to fix it all... We just have to be careful not to forget ourselves in the process.


Are dentists superhumans?

As dentists, we are extremely good at staying focused for long periods of time. We are academics and craftsmen at the same time. We have managed to get through an extremely demanding education. Only certain types of people are able to do this. It's not for everyone.


But even though we have the characteristics that enable us to do all this, we are still human. We are not robots that can run on autopilot forever. We can't keep overriding our own needs again and again and again. Even if we're good at it.


It's easy to lose focus on life

Being a dental practice owner adds an almost endless list of administrative tasks to the list of challenges:

Salary, holidays, time off, bookkeeping, elective leave, insurance, pension plans, IT hardware and software updates, backup solutions, purchasing agreements, discount agreements, course administration, in-house training, staff meetings, key performance indicator meetings, therapist meetings, price updates, new products, repairs, rent, service agreements, meetings with bank, accountant and lawyer, marketing, website update, etc, etc.


With all the demands that come WITH an extremely busy day, it's easy to lose track or yourself as a dentist.

Please note that I am not saying being a dentist or a practice owner sucks! On the contrary!!!!


It's awesome to be a practice owner!

There is hardly any industry where it IS possible to achieve as many desires and dreams as being a dentist and a practice owner. It CAN be fun, rewarding and lead to a relaxing everyday life with lots of freedom. But it starts with a constant focus on what we want to achieve overall with our lives.


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The pitfalls

The daily routine at a dental chair is extremely time-optimized. Just a 2 minute delay waiting for the dental assistant to pick up something we need during treatment can ruin the schedule. Add to this the fact that we work in conditions that, in virtually any other industry, would be defined as insane: We work extremely close to other people, the ergonomics are often challenging, the workspace is extremely small, the demands of prolonged concentration inhuman. It's actually quite crazy what we put ourselves and our staff through.


Black and white wall clock

An example from everyday life

Take the classic 30 minute lunch break, as a simple example:

Most dentists know of days when we are late and only get the patient out of the surgery at 12.10. Only now can the surgery be cleaned, disinfected and made ready for the next patient. 12.15 (best case) we are ready for lunch... Where we typically just need to call a stakeholder or fill out the insurance paperwork that's been sitting on the table since yesterday. At 12.20 the next patient arrives, scheduled for 12.30. So of course we go to the waiting room, greet the patient and bring them to the treatment room.


In many offices, the lunch break not infrequently looks like this. If you don't believe me, just ask the dental assistants. They usually have a pretty good idea of what goes on in the practice and how long it takes.


Many dentists manage to work in these extreme conditions for years. However, in the last 10 years we have seen a sharp increase in younger colleagues who have to stop practising for psychological reasons. Others grit their teeth and hold out until they have to retire, but live with the fact that their lives no longer make sense... or at least to a much lesser extent than before.


What gives your life meaning?

Just the dream - the thoughts about what makes sense... They're missing in a lot of people.

We live in a culture of perfection, where it's not okay to make mistakes.

When we meet with colleagues, we usually talk about teeth and all the amazing treatments we've done. It's rare that we make ourselves vulnerable and talk about all the things that bother us. All the things that aren't going well and all the things we dreamed of achieving but haven't.


We can try to tell ourselves and each other that we feel great.

The fact is that study after study, depression and suicide statistic after suicide statistic, shows unequivocally that we are in a bad state.


Stop it

So I encourage you to stop and think about what you want to achieve with your life.

What do you dream of experiencing? Not as a dentist, but as a human being - outside the practice.

Who do you want to experience it with?

When?


Find the answer

This is the kind of questions we need to ask ourselves. Not just once, but again and again. We need to keep calibrating our inner compass, in order to navigate the extreme everyday life we find ourselves in.


And when we have found the answers to what we want to achieve as human beings, with our family, friends and acquaintances. Only then are we ready to find solutions on how to make the practice support our dreams - our lives. Instead of letting the practice suck the life out of us, leaving only the sad remains after a hard day's work.