How to embrace a culture of wellness in your workplace

New dentists share ways to talk to employer, support team members

Dr. Barrera
Dr. Wright

Alex Barrera, D.D.S., is a general dentist who practices at Legacy Community Health Center in Houston, and the new dentist worries about the burnout he sometimes sees in the dental profession.

"Burnout at work can put your physical and mental health in jeopardy and, if left untreated, could lead to more significant consequences,” he said.

Burnout in the workplace is serious business.

A 2021 survey commissioned by the ADA Council on Dental Practice revealed the percentage of dentists diagnosed with anxiety more than tripled in 2021 compared with 2003.

A yoga instructor on the side, Dr. Barrera said it can be difficult for employee dentists to talk to their employer if they’re experiencing burnout.

“As an employee dentist, try making it the norm to talk to your employer about mental health and stress,” Dr. Barrera said. “Start the conversation by asking them if they have ever experienced burnout and if they have any suggestions on how to help minimize the stress. You can then bring up something that may be causing your burnout and discuss things your team can do to minimize that.”

Helping to create a positive culture of wellness within the practice while promoting the mental as well as physical health of the entire dental team is vital to success for practices, Dr. Barrera said.

“We can help create a culture of wellness in our workplace by making it the norm to talk about burnout, but to also emphasize the importance of scheduled breaks and time off from work,” he said. “If you take the time to reflect on daily tasks that may be adding to your stress, you can better respond to these triggers with logic and reason rather than react with anger or quit altogether.”

ArNelle R. Wright, D.M.D., one of the hosts of the Dental Sound Bites podcast and past new dentist member of the ADA Council on Dental Practice, echoed Dr. Barrera’s philosophy that empathetic communication is the key.

“Approaching leadership within the workplace with a personal challenge is frightening for most,” she said. “However, having open lines of communication reduces the fear one may have initially. The second part for me is a leader who displays empathy. I believe the culture of our practices is shaped in part by the words we say, but mostly by the actions we take. Keeping this in mind, a leader who demonstrates empathy would promote a lasting culture of wellness amongst their dental team."

The ADA offers resources related to mental health and burnout at

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