Mental Health in Dental Nursing

Mental health burnouts and stress can be caused and imposed by a number of things ranging from personal to professional. The past 2 years have been particularly bad from a number of surveys done due to the pandemic. In this article, we’ll look at the most common causes and the relevant ways of dealing with them to prevent sinking further.

What can cause mental distress

Low management involvement

The capacity and experience of managers and principal dentists in people management, operations management, or financial management is quite surprisingly low. This leads to a load of a burden on the dental nurses with issues and problems raised often not dealt with. Having to deal with defective equipment and inattentive bosses imposes a great deal of stress which after some time can morph into depression.

Regulation Compromise

As a direct result of the point above, sometimes dental nurses are asked or made to go against clinical regulations. When it backfires, they are left to take responsibility – being used as human shields. When this happens the metal strain from sometimes the punishment to the risk of sanctions can be detrimental.


Dentistry is a people business, and dental treatments require a team effort. Being rude, snappy, sullen, and bullying towards colleagues is simply not acceptable and surely damages patient care as much as working relationships. But, when the pressure builds, it happens.

Pace and volume of work.

The number of patients seen in a day in one surgery in general practice can be as high as 40. This is just too many. We are required to watch for signs of problems and abuse, particularly in children, but with this volume of patients, how do you spot an issue, let alone deal with it? Mental health conditions, diabetic hypoglycemia, and even asthma attacks turn into ‘problems’ when they should be patients we are caring for.

Some practical steps dental practices could take include;

Management training.

Improving the capacity of the management with people skills can help ease off the pressure on the dental nurses. Having staff and management meetings and deliberations will be helpful in the communication of issues. When the issues are taken up and improved, working becomes smooth.

Respect for professional integrity

Compliance is paramount in operating professionally. If something feels non-compliant to someone, instead of being shushed off, the same can be reviewed against regulation to clear any doubt

Encourage teamwork

Bullying is now a business risk and is harshly dealt with by industrial tribunals. It is the responsibility of the practice manager and principal dentist to eliminate bad behavior. But address it in a thoughtful and conciliatory manner. A heavy-handed approach just makes things worse. Develop a positive, team-based culture through being fair to all and open to everyone.

Management of workloads and staffing

The amount of work should be comfortably handled by the available dental nurses. Overstretching them should be avoided as it even lowers the quality of work that cannot be afforded in the dental industry. Fortunately, there has been an increase in awareness in society around mental health. A lot of this work is to tackle the stigma associated with mental health problems and to enable and encourage people to seek help, without fear of judgment or embarrassment.

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