Dental Tribune Asia Pacific

Mental health support for Australian dentists provided by 24/7 hotline

By Brendan Day, Dental Tribune International
November 15, 2021

SYDNEY, Australia: Though dentistry is a profession that often delivers a high level of prestige and job satisfaction, dental practitioners are prone to occupational burn-out, depression and myriads of other mental health issues. These issues have intensified over the course of the COVID-19 pandemic, and the Dental Board of Australia (DBA) has launched Dental Practitioner Support, a round-the-clock, free and confidential phone service intended to provide advice and help to dental practitioners across Australia.

Though it is a DBA initiative, Dental Practitioner Support is run by Turning Point, a telehealth advice provider, and operates independently of the DBA to enable full discretion. Through the service, dental professionals and their family members, students, employers, and educators can talk to a team of counsellors with experience in handling a wide range of issues related to mental health and well-being. Advice and guidance can be sought anonymously, if desired, and is available via phone at 1800 377 700 or through the Dental Practitioner Support website.

Mental health in the spotlight

As Dental Tribune International has previously reported, mental health issues in dentistry have been exacerbated by numerous factors during the pandemic. According to research from the American Dental Association, dental earnings fell considerably in 2020, down 17.9% in comparison with 2019. Meanwhile, recent data from University of California San Diego Health has shown that a dramatic increase in COVID-19 cases among its vaccinated healthcare staff is probably owing to a combination of waning immunity, relaxed mask requirements and the emergence of the highly transmissible Delta variant.

Unsurprisingly, organisations like the Medical and Dental Defence Union of Scotland (MDDUS)—one of the leading medical defence organisations in the UK—have reported receiving a record number of inquiries from dentists seeking advice and support during 2020. In its annual report for 2020, MDDUS noted that written requests for advice from UK-based dental professionals had increased by 83% compared with 2019.

Thankfully, a number of mental health initiatives akin to Dental Practitioner Support have been created to support dental professionals experiencing struggles in this regard. In the UK, the Dental Professionals Alliance launched its Mental Health Wellness in Dentistry framework this past May, which calls on all British dental practices to appoint a mental health wellness lead in order to, among other things, help ensure the continued destigmatisation of mental health issues in the workplace.

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