Work Life Balance for New Dentists

If you’re a new dental graduate preparing to enter the full-time clinical field for the first time, you probably have a lot of emotions: excitement, anxiety, exhilaration, and relief from the rigors and monotony of dental school.

Once you get started, all that excitement and anxiety can be difficult to manage when you’re trying to learn as much as you can, prove yourself to senior dentists, and become financially stable. Here are seven tips to manage work-life balance as you navigate one of the best career fields for the first time.

Separate work from home …

It’s crucial that your patients receive all your attention and focus during appointments. In addition to performing at your best, staying in the moment and being fully aware can help prevent mistakes. As much as possible, try to tune out your personal obligations, family members’ needs, or something at home that might be dragging you down.

… But allow personal time in your work day.

On the flip side, don’t neglect your thoughts. Build time into your day to separate your mind from work for a few moments. This could mean building a couple extra minutes into each appointment, taking a quiet moment in the break room, and taking some time to sit down and eat lunch.

Avoid the trap of working constantly.

It’s tempting, and perhaps occasionally necessary, to work significant amounts of overtime. Your student loans are coming due, and perhaps you’re supporting yourself for the first time, so the thought of cashing in quickly is attractive. But don’t make it a habit. Make sure you have at least one full day off each week to enjoy life and forget about work for awhile. Your patients and coworkers will thank you!

Manage your personal finances.

As a new dentist, you can expect to earn an average income of about $130,000*. Although your student loan costs will be high, it’s likely you’ll have some money left over. If left unchecked, your finances can easily get the best of you. Set a monthly reminder to monitor your financial accounts, including student loan balances, bank accounts, investments, retirement, and revolving debt. Take the time to develop a monthly spending plan and know your budget. It might seem like you don’t have the time, but prioritizing your personal finances will allow you to reach financial goals faster and give you more control over your future.

*Remember to account for variances in location, practice type, and ownership. Estimate provided by the ADA.

Be realistic and set expectations.

It’s normal for a newer dentist to need extra time for restorative treatments or complicated procedures. If the front desk staff aren’t doing this already, ask them to build in extra time for these appointments. Until you become comfortable and familiar in the clinical setting, it’s okay to take the time you need. To learn faster, enlist the help of your senior dentist or another mentor in the field. Ask him or her for an opinion on the best way to approach a crown, or try to shadow your mentor in patient interactions and complicated procedures. You’ll gain a wealth of knowledge, and studies have shown that having a mentor greatly improves career success.

Self-care is vital.

You’re in the healthcare field, so you understand the importance of proactive steps to maintain optimal wellness. Don’t forget about you! Do your best to maintain a healthy diet, which will allow you to keep up with the fast paced and sometimes long work days. Make time to exercise, even if it’s a 15-minute walk during lunch. Get enough rest so you’re mentally focused on tackling even the most complex patient cases in the morning. Don’t be afraid to try yoga, tai chi, or meditation, even if you never considered yourself athletic.

Recognize the signs of burnout before it happens.

Too often, new dentists become entrenched in the day-in, day out grind of dentistry without allowing enough time for breaks (not just during the work day, but overall). What happens if you suddenly find yourself hating the field you spent so much time preparing for?

You can prevent burnout by recognizing signs of chronic stress before they negatively impact your long-term health and wellness. Signs include:

  • Insomnia
  • Irritability
  • Muscle pain
  • Overeating comfort foods
  • Depression and anxiety

The American Dental Association provides a great list of other resources you can read for tips on achieving work-life balance. As you continue practicing dentistry, be sure to reach out to our office if you have questions on building your career.