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Maintaining mental health, wellness during COVID-19 pandemic

Association offers resources, programs to help dentists tackle stress

July 27, 2020

By Kimber Solana

Dentistry is a high-stress career, and the added challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic underscore the need for dentists to maintain their mental health and well-being, said Dr. Jeffrey Berkley, chair of the Council on Dental Practice’s Health, Wellness & Aging subcommittee.
   
“We all concentrate on every detail and seek perfection,” Dr. Berkley said. “The additional considerations that COVID-19 adds to this creates additional stress.”
   
Dentists are exemplary at infection control, he added. “But now, we need to ask if we can accomplish the same procedure without an aerosol, consider consolidating or staging office visits, addressing personnel concerns and contemplate financial considerations of our modified practice regimen.”
   
It’s for this reason that the Association has and continues to offer resources and programs to help members keep their mental health and overall wellness in check.
   
Through the ADA’s Council on Dental Practice, a wide range of monthly wellness webinars has been promoted, including some of which were produced through the ADA’s Accelerator Series. These include the webinars Emotional Impact: Dealing Constructively With Stress in the Midst of COVID-19; What Makes Humans Happy; and Balanced By Design: Why “Crazy Busy” Isn’t Sustainable. The webinars are available on-demand and free to ADA members.

The next webinar, The Dental Hygienist’s Role in Supporting Patients with Substance Use Disorder, is scheduled Aug. 6 from 1-2 p.m. CST.
   
“The ADA has compiled relevant and informative resources that are well-organized and easy to access,” Dr. Berkley said. “We are still working to update and expand these on a daily basis. The ADA response to this crisis has been exemplary and makes me proud to be a member.”
   
Earlier in the spring, at the beginning of stay-in-place orders, the council provided a weekly webinar series, which are also available on demand, including Four Ways to Stay Healthy During Crisis with Dr. Uche Odiatu; and Building Resilience in Times of Anxiety and Uncertainty with Dr. Aparna Chawla. All existing mental health resources may be found through the Center for Professional Success at ADA.org/wellness.
   
Dr. Berkley said his views on mental health and wellness as a dentist practicing during a pandemic may be influenced by his experience as a COVID-19 survivor who was in the intensive care unit and had a prolonged recovery.
   
“Breathing through an N95 mask and wearing extra personal protective equipment can be exhausting,” he said, adding that other challenges include making sure the dental team, staff and patients maintain the highest degree of safety while providing the highest level of care.
   
“But it is our nature to love a challenge,” he said. “Sometimes, it helps to just take a walk outside or try some other non-dental distraction to clear your head.”

In May, the Council on Dental Practice decided to approve a call for nominations to its Dental Wellness Advisory Committee for a content authority on mental health.
   
In direct response to that call, the council has now confirmed two mental health experts as consultants to the ADA as members of the Dental Wellness Advisory Committee: Diana E. Dill, Ed.D., a social scientist, coaching and consulting psychologist and behavioral health provider; and Kasey Franco, director of training and education at the National Alliance on Mental Illness.
   
Dr. Berkley said he has maintained good mental health and wellness by communicating with colleagues and educating himself and his dental team through the ADA webinars.
   
“This is not the first crisis we have faced and certainly won’t be the last,” he said. “Have faith we will beat this, and please don’t hesitate to ask for help if you need it.”