Four of Five Dentists Suffer from Burnout

Post your comments about dental burnout to our blog.

Dental Survey Results When we asked dentists if they've ever suffered from professional burnout in their dental careers, a whopping 81% said yes. Only 19% reported that they had never
felt burnt out in dentistry.

"If dentists dropped managed care and got better fees for their hard work, it would reduce burnout significantly,” said one dentist wistfully. "Get rid of people in the office who drag you down," offered another. “Sometimes the very best first step is to sell the practice, take a year off, relax, think, and plan new strategies,” advised an implantologist.

Read the dentists’ comments for further insight.

General dentists versus specialists


Dentists in urban areas report the most burnout. Rural dentists are twice as likely as those in urban areas to say they’ve managed to avoid getting burnt out thus far.


For more insight, check out these comments!!

Tips to ease your life

  • "Work 4 days a week. Have a good staff. Take long lunch breaks. Use fewer rooms.” (Vermont dentist)
  • “Deal with dentistry, not finances.” (Illinois dentist)
  • “Don't work too many hours, have hobbies, get rid of people in the office who drag you down.” (Canada dentist)
  • “You need a good, supportive, and educated office staff, though it can be hard to find or train them.” (New York dentist)
  • “Don't work more than 4 days per week and get an associate or several to help share the load.” (Texas dentist)
  • “Take time off when you need it. Save some work for another day; you do not have to finish everything today!” (California dentist)
  • “Work only 4 days/week, increasing the hours/day so you get a day off midweek. Also, take quarterly vacations.” (Illinois dentist)

Continuing education can help keep you fresh

  • “I started courses at the Dawson Academy to counter burnout.” (New Jersey dentist)
  • “Taking CE to learn and improve techniques rejuvenates my practice. It keeps me fresh.” (Illinois dentist)
  • “Keep going to continuing ed classes and enjoy working with staff you like.” (California dentist)

Maintain your personal life

  • “Have a life outside of dentistry.” (New York dentist)
  • “I have learned that it is necessary for me to schedule time to participate in activities that do not involve dentistry.” (Texas orthodontist)
  • “Stay focused on something else you really enjoy – especially Church.” (Arkansas dentist)
  • “Feeling burnt out usually signifies to me that it's time to take a vacation.” (Florida dentist)

Insurance makes it easy to get burnt out

  • “I feel that I am not paid enough for my hard work and time spent with each and every patient, especially when dealing with insurance. I’m a relatively new dentist, and no one warned me about the dangers of high stress, high debt, low reimbursements and staffing issues.” (Illinois dentist)
  • “With the growth of all these HMO and managed care insurances and clinics, their doctors can easily get burnout. I see a lot of bad dentistry every day come through my office from many of these clinics. One thing all patients say across the board is that they feel like another number and the doctor was too busy to explain my treatment to me or the doctor was not easy to talk to. How to avoid burnout?? That is the million dollar question… If all dentists unite and make a pledge to drop managed care insurances and get better fees for their hard work, I am sure it would reduce burnout significantly.” (Florida dentist)

How can dentistry be boring?

  • “To my mind, burn-out is strictly a mental problem. If you view each patient as unique, each with their own set of physical and mental aspects to their mouths, how can dentistry get boring?” (Maryland dentist)

Don’t forget that you are getting older

  • “The over-40 crowd needs time away to counter burnout.” (Texas pediatric dentist)
  • "I have noticed signs of burnout in some dentist friends in their 40's. They are sandwiched by aging parents who need help and children in college. Oh, and they realize that they have a finite number of years left to be productive and save for retirement, which they have put off doing and now can’t afford to do.” (Tennessee retired dentist)
  • “Don't get overwhelmed by a schedule that is not commensurate with your ebbing strength as you hit retirement age. I was ok in my fifties, but my sixties found me tired and beset by medical issues. I find it almost impossible to earn a living unless I work more than I did in my 50's.
    I have to charge more than my peers and hope that good manners and service make up the difference. Staff problem cause me to
    almost say good night. I don't know if I can afford to retire, and stress is ‘killing me’ (I just had cancer and still have it and my docs say avoid stress –
    hah!). Being accomplished in all areas is near to impossible and part of the stress. Lousy support from labs and staff make up a great part of the difference, and patients that cancel and treat me lightly are a large part of burnout.” (California dentist)

The unique stresses of dentistry

  • "Dentistry is stressful. I don't think any other medical specialty other than oncology deals so much with the ‘mental’ aspect of patient care.” (Iowa periodontist)
  • “Burnout to me is mainly the result of the negative light in which most people view the dental office experience. No matter how hard I try to make it tolerable if not pleasant. there is no cure for that problem.” (Massachusetts dentist)
  • “Too many patients and not enough time.” (Kentucky dentist)
  • “It’s the employees.” (California dentist)
  • “The biggest frustration comes from trying to meet everyone's expectations, only to have them sue you when you can't. dentistry's great. People can be, but usually aren't.” (Arkansas dentist)

Do you have a backup plan?

  • “Sometimes the very best first step is to sell the practice, take a year off, relax, think, and plan new strategies. The second step must then be new actions to be effective.” (California dental implantologist)
  • “For years I've told myself that the first time I feel like, ‘Oh no, I have to go to work!’ I'll cancel all patients and take a mental health day. In 33 years it's never happened. Instead, it's 9:00 AM and it's SHOW TIME!” (Pennsylvania dentist)

The business side can be tough

  • “The business side can get heavy. Good coaching can help.” (Virginia dentist)
  • “It's having a great, loyal, professional and mature staff along with a great flow of new patients who want what I have to sell and where money is no object. So, how do I find that? LOL.” (Texas dentist)
  • “Since there are thousands of tiny steps in procedures and the business side, all needing to be performed correctly, you must think of the office when you are away from it. Hence, burnout.” (Minnesota dentist)

Being your own boss reduces burnout

  • “A doc can suffer if they are not the top decision maker for the practice, like being an associate not able to completely control one's schedule.” (California dentist)

Not being your own boss reduces burnout

  • "I started a solo practice in the early 70’s. Things were good until interest rates ballooned to more than 20% in the early 80’s. This made it difficult to pay my business loans. I couldn’t muster the energy and effort to work any more, so I sold out and joined a group practice. This gave me the cash to pay off my debts and allowed me to reduce my work schedule to three days a week, which was ideal for me. After a couple of months on this lighter schedule with no debts to worry about, I began to enjoy dentistry again. I'm still practicing part time in a group practice setting. Wouldn't have it any other way.” (Colorado dentist)

It comes and goes

  • "A lull in the economy requires a change in the game plan and a focus to the future. With that being said, it’s a lot like bicycling a hilly course.” (North Carolina dentist)

So quit dentistry if you’re so burned out…

  • “Sell everything! Let someone else treat all the wimpy patients….get a job mowing lawns..” (Alaska dentist)


Note: Survey sample included 122 respondents.

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