Edited by Janice Langan-Fox and Cary Cooper
Chapter 7: Occupational Stress Among Dentists
Rod Moore Dentists report a high degree of occupational stress (Cooper et al., 1978; Coster et al., 1987; DiMatteo et al., 1993; Hakeberg et al., 1992; Möller & Spangenberg, 1996; Moore, 2000; Myers & Myers, 2004; O’Shea et al., 1984). This chapter reviews the literature that elaborates on the circumstances of occupational stress of dentists. These will include the frequency of occurrence of occupational stress among dentists in several countries, frequency and intensity of identified stressors specific to dentistry, as well as the consequences of this occupational stress. The literature on consequences includes effects on dentists’ physical health, personal and occupational performance, including ‘burnout’ phenomena, as well as the topics of alcohol or substance abuse and reports of suicidal behavior among dentists. One specific and less conventionally described consequence of high perceived dentist stress is decreased sensitivity to anxious patients. This is described as contributing to a vicious circle of stress, perceived poor role image and occupational dissatisfaction. The literature about dental professional coping, although scant, is also described and set in a descriptive background of dental professional socialization and future research possibilities. OCCURRENCE AND STRESSORS In one of the earlier larger studies of occupational stress in dentistry, O’Shea and colleagues (O’Shea et al., 1984) found in a sample of nearly 1000 American dentists that 75 percent identified dentistry as ‘more stressful than other occupations’. However, most believed that other dentists were under more stress than themselves. The stressors particularly noted included falling behind schedule, striving for technical perfection, causing pain...
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