In the 1920’s, the media and people began seeing dentists in the light of being prone to suicide. During the 1960’s statistics claiming that dentists have higher suicidal tendencies than other healthcare officials, came to the fore; however, it was subjected to scrutiny in the 1970’s, due to its generalized, illogical evidence.
Suicidal risk factors that affect dental practitioners
Dental practitioners spend a majority of their time confined in small facilities, which are sometimes windowless. Moreover their operating field is confined to a small oral space as well, asking for meticulous attention to detail.
Apart from being mentally taxing, these procedures can cause back pain, fatigue, circulatory disorders and others, due to which they often feel drained out physically, emotionally and mentally. Dental practitioners usually practice alone. The lack of peer support can often manifest itself in a negative way.
The high cost of dental school can add to the stress a recent graduate faces when it comes time to start paying off their school loans. If a student must take out loans to cover their entire dental school education, they might not fully understand the amount of debt they will have to pay off afterwards.
Students might be desensitized to grasping the complete understanding of the extreme scale a $200,000 + loan commitment is. Understandably, since a 2015 “Market Watch” survey showed that 22.4% of young millennials (18-24 years old) didn’t even have a savings account set up.
Therefore, dentists face an immense amount of economic pressure as they have to pay off their education loans or invest in installing private practices. This can cause them to work extra hours or give up breaks to squeeze in more appointments, leading to stress.
Patient anxiety can undermine a dentist’s frame of mind. Apprehensive patients can evoke physiological responses in the dentist as well, that manifest in the form of increased blood pressure, heart rate, sweating and such.
dentist suicide rate myth busted
A general belief is that people often feel stressed at the thought of visiting a dentist’s office and this translates to the dentists facing the same amount of stress as well. The myth of a high dentist suicide rate sprouts from an assumption that a job requiring dexterity and attention to detail, apart from its socially isolated routine, may cause suicidal tendencies in the professional.
A research article posted by the Journal of the American Dental Association claims that there is no proof to back the claim that dentists have a higher likeliness of committing suicide when compared to the rest of the population. An interesting note to make is that despite a lack of larger scale studies, the data that was reviewed suggested that female dentists may be more vulnerable.
The cause for suicidal tendencies cannot always be tied with the nature of the profession alone. But the rumor of suicidal dentists took shape like most urban legends do, by repeatedly doing the rounds over the years. About 90 percent of suicidal cases spark from mental disorders, rather than occupational stress, so it is likely that the high dentist suicide belief is merely a myth.