Dental health care workers reported higher rates of anxiety and depression during peaks of COVID-19 transmission among the public, according to a study published in the August issue of The Journal of the American Dental Association.
The one-year study, conducted from June 2020 to June 2021 as part of ongoing research by the ADA and American Dental Hygienists' Association to understand COVID-19's impact on dental professionals, found anxiety symptoms peaked in November 2020 and depression symptoms were at their highest in December 2020 for both dentists and dental hygienists.
Also published by the Journal of Dental Hygiene, it is the first known U.S. study to evaluate the mental health of front-line dentists and dental hygienists during the pandemic. The research included 8,902 dental health care workers who participated monthly in an anonymous, web-based survey.
"The hope is that this is just the first of many steps in monitoring mental wellness of the entire oral care team," said JoAnn Gurenlian, Ph.D., director of education and research for the American Dental Hygienists' Association. "There is much work to be done to dismantle barriers to treatment and prioritize well-being in the oral care setting, as well as look at future research around contributing factors to mental illness that may be unique to these professions."
Between June 2020 and June 2021, 17.7% of dental health care workers reported anxiety symptoms, 10.7% reported depression symptoms and 8.3% reported symptoms of both. Dental hygienists reported higher rates of anxiety and depression symptoms than dentists at each surveyed time point, according to the study.
In November 2020, 17% of dentists and 28% of dental hygienists reported experiencing symptoms of anxiety, which declined to about 12% for both professions in May 2021. Reported depression reached 10% among dentists and 17% among dental hygienists in December 2020 before declining to about 8% for both professions in May 2021.