Five strategies to prevent burnout as a dentist – New Dentist Blog

Are you finding yourself lacking energy, feeling anxious, or snapping at your loved ones? If you are experiencing chronic stress, it can lead to burnout.

ResearchHealthcare professionals are experiencing increased burnout, according to research. The World Health Organization defines burnout in the International Classification of Diseases (ICD-11) as “a syndrome conceptualized as resulting from chronic workplace stress that has not been successfully managed.” Dr. Christina Maslach, one of the world’s foremost experts on occupational burnout, outlines the three key dimensions of burnout in her research as “overwhelming exhaustion, feelings of cynicism and detachment from the job, and a sense of ineffectiveness and lack of accomplishment.”

Dr. Barto

It’s important to note that burnout differs from stress. While stress can cause increased demands and increase hyperactivity, it also leads to over-engagement. But there is hope that the work will end soon. Unmanaged stress can lead to burnout, which is feeling disconnected and without motivation.

It’s critical to be aware of how unmanaged stress accumulates in your life so that we can focus on preventing burnout. As a new dentist practicing full time, I’ve experienced chronic stress. As a yoga teacher and wellness coach, I’m equipped with the tools to successfully manage this stress. I’ve gathered five strategies that have worked for me to manage stress and prevent burnout.

1. Optimize basic health behaviors: master the way you sleep, eat, & move

So that we can be our best selves, it is important to understand the fundamentals of well-being. How we eat, sleep, and move gives us the energy to thrive. Burnout is when we are trying to perform at maximum capacity but neglect our own health.

I won’t expand on how we can optimize the way we eat and move in this article, but I will expand on sleep as I believe it is the most under-used yet powerful tool available to us. My sleep teacher is Jennifer Piercy, so eloquently puts it, sleep is anti-inflammatory medicine that nourishes literally all physiological and psychological functions — hormones, circulation, cardiovascular and brain function, metabolism, memory, consolidation of learning experiences, emotional processing, creativity, and ability to focus.

A great strategy to improve quality sleep is to practice a digital sunset. At least Turn off your computer at least an hour before you go to bed. This will prevent you from using your phone for scrolling, texting, or watching TV. Instead, make a bedtime routine that slows you down before you fall asleep. Relaxing activities include reading, restorative yoga and taking a bath. You can also snuggle with your pet or meditate. The digital sunset helps us calibrate our circadian rhythm as blue light exposure at night reduces the production of melatonin. Get 10 minutes sunlight each day to support melatonin formation

Yoga Nidra is a ancient, guided meditation that helps you fall asleep. It lasts between 10-45 minutes and allows you to enter deep states of relaxation and repair. Yoga Nidra is my favorite sleep hack. Insight TimerUse thisYou can use a special eye mask before you go to bed, when you wake up, or as a substitute for naps in the afternoon.


Although I only listed three of the most important health behaviors, there are many others that can have a significant impact on our performance, if optimized. Our ability to focus, how we breathe and the way that we feel are some of the most important factors. The ability to focus, reduce mind wandering, and improve the quality of your life are all important factors for optimal health. They will need their own future discussions.

2. Perform an identity check 

It takes nearly a decade to train to become dentists. This journey is a promise to ourselves that if we work hard, we will succeed later. We often realize that the goalpost has moved farther away when we finish dental school. Somewhere along the journey, we may wake up to the fact that the life we are living isn’t the life we expected or realize that we’ve been working towards someone else’s goals. It is important to reconnect with your authentic self when you feel like your life is not in alignment. This will help you create a happy life and avoid burnout. It is natural that our identities have evolved in the years we’ve spent training to be a dentist

Perform an identity checkTake one hour to do an identity check-up. Answer the following questions to see how your identity is changing.

  • What are my values
  • What are my rights? signature strengths?
  • What am I passionate about? What do I truly enjoy doing? flow?
  • How do I define a successful life?
  • How would I like to feel everyday?
  • What is my vision of my life?
  • Are my goals and current actions in line with this vision?

3. Break up with the busy-ness: Do less

A radical change in your relationship to busy-ness is necessary to prevent or recover burnout. We have all lived our lives over-scheduled and busy. The default setting for our lives is busy-ness. When we fall below that baseline, we have a tendency to go back to being busy. To prevent burnout, it is important to give up busy-ness.

Doing less isn’t about putting in less effort, but rather only doing the things that are in alignment with your life vision. It’s possible to accomplish more when you let go all the unnecessary distractions. Instead of rushing through your life full of frantic energy, enjoy every moment and feel fulfilled.

When we start to be less busy, it is easy to feel anxious or agitated. shouldBe more. It takes inner work to understand both our drive for achievement and our external definitions of success.

Here are the things that helped me to get over busy.

  • Only aligned actions are possible: It’s important to do that identity check-up and evaluate if your current goals and actions are aligned with your desired identity. As James Clear puts it, “Every action you take is a vote for the type of person you wish to become.” Get realistic about how you are currently spending your time. What are you busy doing that is and isn’t aligned with your vision? What can you automate, optimize, or outsource?
  • Set boundaries and say noBoundaries are key to self-respect, self-compassion and self-compassion. The tendency to please others can lead to burnout and stress. Limitations can be set regarding scheduling, specific procedures and cutting back on work hours, changing jobs or hiring more support. You can filter out new opportunities by asking: Is this in line with my vision? Can this be done by someone else or now?
  • Time blocking rather than to-do listsRemember that your happiness does not depend on the completion of a to-do list. To-do lists don’t account for the time required to complete tasks. Instead, you should set aside a certain amount of time to complete a task. Create time blocks in your calendar for work, as well as other values such as family, rest, creativity, and social media. This will allow us to be present with focused, unaffected energy. It also helps us overcome that nagging feeling that something should be done.

This is a powerful tool for reducing stress and preventing burnout.


4. Enjoy the highs, and take the lessons from the lows

You can also prevent burnout by creating a system where you celebrate your successes, and take lessons from your failures. This is important because it helps us decompress after stressful procedures, separate our identity from our clinical failures, learn and grow from experiences, and it allows us to build our ‘cookie jar.’

To help you evaluate your success or failure, consider the following:

  • Keep a notebook or a note in your phone, and after significant cases reflect on what went well, what didn’t go well, and how you can improve. I call this a ‘Keep-Stop-Start’ review
  • When you receive positive feedback or are happy with an outcome, add it to your ‘cookie jar.’ Keep a record of these wins at the back of your notebook or in a digital note for a positive reminder when the going gets tough
  • Regularly connect with a buddy to share highs or lows.

5. Ask for help

Support from others is always a key to success. Asking for and receiving help is an opportunity to build vulnerability and connection, and it’s a sign of strength. Reach out to other dentists who have been honest about their experiences with burnout. Join study clubs and mastermind groups to make connections with other dentists.

Explore new areas outside of dentistry that might be compatible with your passions. We often forget that there is a world beyond dentistry. It is possible to explore different interests and hobbies, which can help you reconnect with support communities and rebuild your identity beyond dentistry.

If you’ve made it to the end of this article, have implemented the steps above, and still feel burned out, it may be a sign that there is something greater going on. Talk to a licensed counselor, therapist or coach. I have worked alongside professionals. BetterHelpI worked with, a virtual therapy platform, and two dentist-specific coaches. I was a part of the following: Dr. Laura BrennerOn identity and career satisfaction Dr. Jessica MetcalfeHow to get rid of impostor syndrome, perfectionism, and burnout. It is extremely empowering to work with coaches who have been there.


It is important to learn how stress can be managed effectively, identify early warning signs, and protect our health. If you are seeking additional support in preventing burnout, I’ve created a guided mini-course available for free here. You’re not alone, you’ve got this!

Dr. Shivani Kamodia Barto works as a general dentist and yoga teacher. She is also a wellness coach. She received her 200-hour yoga teacher training in 2012, and was awarded a degree from the University of Michigan School of Dentistry. Shivani is a leading figure in organized dentistry, sustainable dentistry, wellness for dentists, and other related areas. Shivani is also passionate about helping other health care professionals apply science of well-being to help them thrive in dentistry without compromising their mind and body. She offers support via immersive retreats, private coaching and online programs. For more information, visit

Five strategies to prevent burnout as a dentist – New Dentist Blog

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