Under Stress? We're Here to Help

Resources from ADA's Dentist Health and Wellness Program

According to the 2021 Dentist Health and Well-being Survey, the majority of dentists are reporting moderate or severe stress at work. As a result, many dental students and dental professionals are dealing with burnout, substance use disorders (SUDs) and other conditions that may impair their abilities to practice competent dentistry.

If you, or someone you know, is battling stress or substance abuse, the ADA is here to help. The ADA's Dentist Health and Wellness Program, along with state dentist well-being programs, are composed of people who are concerned about the health and well-being of their peers. The ADA Health and Wellness Program will connect you with your state dentist well-being program director. You can also contact your state dentist well-being director directly.

Members and non-members can download the ADA Dentist Well Being Program Directory for free through the ADA Store to find their state program director contact information. Your call or email will be strictly confidential.

No one is completely immune from addictive disorders, psychiatric illnesses, infectious disease, family and relationship problems, or the many varieties of human challenges. In fact, professional training instills values and behaviors antithetical to self-care — deferring other life goals during long and rigorous educational programs and placing a patient’s needs ahead of one’s own, to name a few.

  • Many professionals have focused on professional goals from an early age, and may have jeopardized their development of crucial emotional and relationship skills.
  • Some aspects of dental practice — isolation, for example, and access to controlled substances, a DEA number, nitrous oxide, the knowledge about how drugs work and an office in which to use — may create an environment that actually aids the development of problems.
  • Dentists in solo private practices work without the interaction and scrutiny of peers that is often available in a hospital or clinic setting. In the solo practice setting, coworkers are subordinates and the dentist holds the power of authority and money, making it very difficult for staff to intervene in a problematic situation.

And so, it can happen that good dentists can become impaired in their practice.

Dentist well-being programs and other professional assistance and advocacy efforts operate on the belief and experience that, in the majority of cases, practice impairment comes as the result of an illness that can be treated. Dental societies are in an ideal position to facilitate much-needed support to dentists with personal problems, and in fact, many have been doing so for years. Many offer programs, but the type of program varies.

There may be signs that you or someone you know need help. The ADA has created a free resource sheet that offers some symptoms of distress. You'll also find information about accessing help.

In addition to the material provided here, contact your state dental society to inquire about the programs available in your area. 

Download the ADA Dentist Well-being Program Directory [PDF]

The ADA's Health and Wellness Program is here to help. Please contact us at dentalpractice@ada.org.