A Two-Part Mindset Shift to Help Dentists Avoid or Overcome Burnout

It's no secret that dentists experience burnout at a higher rate than professionals in almost any other industry do.

Unless you get help or take action to do things differently, the constant pull between treating patients and running a business makes burnout a real possibility for any dentist. On top of that, growing regulatory and liability concerns create a high-pressure environment that looms over almost everything we do in our practices. In addition to the practice, regulatory, and liability concerns, we can't forget that we're human. Sometimes, we get so caught up in all the details of serving patients and running a regulated, higher-liability business that we forget to take care of ourselves; we lose ourselves amid all the pressures we feel on a daily basis.

These stressors push a lot of dentists out of practice altogether. Others go through life overworked, underpaid, unhappy, and depressed. It's no wonder dentists experience burnout so often.

It doesn't have to be that way.

With just two mindset shifts, you can start building a practice you love and position yourself to avoid burnout altogether, or overcome burnout you're currently experiencing. These two shifts work by helping you do two things that are critical to avoiding or overcoming burnout.

Two things these mindset shifts do to help you avoid or overcome burnout.

First, they help you change the way you view your roles as dentist and business owner. They give you a healthy perspective on your roles and responsibilities. This is important because many dentists view their roles in a way that promotes stress and burnout. By adjusting your vision of your roles, you can build better boundaries and structure in your practice. That will give you more control and help you reduce stress.

Second, these mindset shifts help you identify the parts of your practice that aren't in your control. This is important because it sets you up to emotionally let go of things you can't control. Letting go of things you can't control helps you focus on the things you can control, which makes you more effective in those tasks. Over time, this helps you achieve better results in less time.

When you're just starting out, take a few minutes each morning to review these two mindset shifts. Be intentional about keeping them top of mind throughout your day. As time goes on, you'll begin retraining your brain to be burnout resistant by reducing, eliminating, or outsourcing the most stressful parts of your practice.

1. Start viewing your patients as customers to serve instead of people to treat.

Seeing your patients as people to treat is problematic for two reasons. First, it defines the role of the dentist as someone who's only there to work on teeth. Second, it defines customer success in terms of treating teeth.

With that mindset, a dentist focuses all of their attention on the customer's teeth. As long as the treatment is professional, the dentist has done her job.

The problem with this mindset is, although it helps the dentist focus on caring for teeth, that skill is something every patient assumes their dentist has. They go to the dentist expecting the dentist to take good care of their teeth. If that's all you do, it creates a very forgettable, blah experience.

Shifting your mindset to view your patients as customers to serve, on the other hand, changes how you view your role as dentist and helps you look beyond the teeth. That mindset causes you to focus on every part of your patients' entire experience with your practice. When you do that, you improve every interaction about your practice, including patient intake, appointment scheduling, patient policies, customer service, and more.

This creates WOW experiences that your patients don't expect—and don't get from other dentists—which leads to much happier patients, more efficient and pleasant operations, and much less stress for you.

2. Treat your practice like a business and act like a business owner, not just a service provider.

Shifting your mindset from a service provider to a business owner is one of the best ways to avoid or overcome burnout because it causes you to get help and build efficiencies, so you don't have to do everything yourself.

The best way to scale your practice to run without you is to systematize everything about your practice. When your practice is systematized, your best practices are documented and shared with your team. This helps ensure anyone in your business can take tasks off your hands because they have step-by-step instructions from you about the best way to perform those tasks.

A systematized practice also makes more money because the dentists can spend their time on income-producing or other high-value activities and let salaried administrators perform administrative tasks at a far lower cost.

Treating your practice like you’re a service provider causes dentists to focus on doing too much work themselves, including administrative work on nights and weekends. Additionally, even if they have staff to help out, without documented best practices, their employees will be less efficient and inconsistent. That means the dentists end up working more, making less money, and giving patients inconsistent experiences. It's almost impossible to grow a practice like that, leading the dentists to constantly feel stressed and stuck.

Are you ready to lower your stress levels?

Avoiding or overcoming burnout starts with your mindset. Two of the best ways to start are to change the way you view your patients and your practice. With these two mindset shifts in place, you'll be well on your way to a more fulfilling and profitable practice!