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3 Warning Signs of Practice Burnout

We’ve all been there. The “Sunday night blues” hit, and we begin dreading the upcoming work week. Why do we seem to have these feelings of anxiety and exhaustion before we even get to work? If you knew how to banish these blues forever, would you make an effort to make that change?

While once looked at as simply a poor attitude, or perhaps being a little overworked, the WHO now recognizes burnout as an official medical condition, described as  a state of emotional, physical, and mental exhaustion caused by excessive and prolonged stress .

According to one study, 84% of dentists have reported feelings of burnout. Another study found that 26% of dental auxiliaries also have suffered from burnout. While other research may vary on the exact percentages, the evidence indicates an increased prevalence of burnout in dental professionals.

The good thing is, the flame can always be relit, and the passion and enjoyment that you found in this amazing profession can be recaptured!

Let’s take a look at 3 signs to help you recognize burnout, and more importantly, best practices to overcome these challenges.

Unhealthy Team Culture

If there’s one thing we hear repeatedly it’s how quickly and efficiently a toxic work environment can make or break a team, and the deterioration of office morale is exhausting. A toxic workplace makes you feel uncomfortable, unappreciated, or undervalued. It can include bullying, screaming, talking down to, or mismanagement, and palpable tension.

Does your team communicate? Is lack of vulnerability and trust an issue? Are your team members easily offended? Is there a lack of accountability across the team? Any bottled-up frustration holding you back? Is there a lack of inclusion? Are all voices at the table heard?

Taking the time to learn about your personality style and behavioral tendencies and those of your team is a great way to overcome an unhealthy culture. Have you discovered your DiSC profile? Are you and your team ready to become more mindful of behaviors and your communication style’s impact?

As a leader, pave the way for positive change here. Taking the time to learn how we naturally communicate, and how we can best communicate with each other can be a gamechanger. Dr. Barrett Straub recommends taking this one step further as a leader, by taking the DiSC 363 for Leaders evaluation. He shares, “The whole point of doing DiSC and 363 is to show your team that you’re willing to improve yourself.  Accepting that you aren’t perfect, hurts like hell, but as a leader, I’ve accepted the risk of those hurt feelings and want to get better for the team.

If improving your team culture seems unimportant to you, read this blog about how much it costs when you have staff turnover.

Lack of Motivation

Dentists are tired. Many of you went to dental school because you wanted to help people, treat them with quality dentistry, and serve as a contributor to our medical society. Was the business and entrepreneurial side considered a part of that journey? In addition to the role of Dentist, you wear many hats including, CEO, CFO, marketing manager, operations manager, human resources, and advertising. Juggling the many roles required to stay afloat can be exhausting. The problem is compounded when you don’t see your goals realized, or your practice does not thrive the way you envisioned.

If consistently unmet goals are getting you down, a reevaluation of how to effectively plan for and set goals is in order . Don’t make goal setting a haphazard and mindless process, be intentional about your plans, engage your team in them, and regain that lost motivation. Take a look at this goals blog to get your creative juices flowing.


We all experience those times when we simply “don’t care”, and it can be harmless and normal to experience in small doses. Yet if this is becoming your norm,  if apathy has overtaken passion, you need to step back and see how harmful this behavior can truly be .

The indifference, unresponsiveness, detachment, and passivity that can leave apathetic individuals feeling exhausted, also leads to bad decisions.

Have you missed your morning huddle every day this week? Missing the huddle can result in mediocre production days. Forgetting to make follow-up calls to your patients after treatment? This can lead to substandard care. Are your case acceptance numbers dropping? The consequence of this choice is negative for you, the team, and the patient. Failing to communicate details with specialists? This could potentially break a referral relationship.

More importantly, is your response to these occurrences, “I just don’t care anymore.”

What Now?

If any of this resonates with you, now is the time to sit back and reflect. Why did you decide to become a dentist? What is your core purpose? Have you been through your core values journey? These foundational principles will help you through any hardship, including burnout.

Kirk has repeatedly said “I stumbled upon the most noble profession” He’s speaking about dentistry. And he’s not lying.

“Practices don’t get better, leaders do!” ACT can help navigate the rough road of entrepreneurial dentistry for a better practice, better life.

About the Author: Heather Crockett is a Lead Practice Coach at ACT Dental. She is also a dental hygienist, motivational speaker, and writer. With over twenty years of serving in different roles in dentistry, she combines her experience to provide our community with best practices for a better life.


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