The first known US study to assess the mental health of frontline dentists and dental hygienists during the pandemic found that dental health workers report symptoms of anxiety and depression during peak transmissions among the public.
Published jointly in the August issues of The Journal of the American Dental Association and the Dental Hygiene Journal and available online at JADA.ada.org, the study indicates that between June 2020 and June 2021, 17.7% of dental professionals reported symptoms of anxiety, 10.7% reported symptoms depression and 8.3% reported symptoms of both. The year-long study conducted from June 2020 to June 2021 included 8,902 dental health workers participating monthly in an anonymous longitudinal online survey.
According to the results, between June 2020 and June 2021, dental hygienists reported higher rates of depression symptoms than dentists at each time point of the survey, with rates of depression symptoms peaking in December 2020. Depression rates of dental hygienists decreased in 2021 while rates of depression symptoms remained stable. At the end of the study period, the two groups had relatively similar rates -; 11.8% for dentists and 12.4% for hygienists.
“Interestingly, dental health workers reported lower rates of anxiety and depression symptoms than the general public, despite being on the front line and providing oral health care during the pandemic,” says author Stacey Dershewitz, JD, Psy.D., adjunct professor of clinical psychology and central clinic director of George Washington University’s Professional Psychology Program. “As the pandemic continues, it is critically important that dental health workers continue to develop their ability to recognize and address the signs and symptoms of mental health issues in themselves and their colleagues, to promote healthy work environments, reduce the impact of stress on the profession, and make supports available to those experiencing emotional difficulties.”
Some participants’ anxiety symptoms decreased after receiving the COVID-19 vaccine. The study -; also the first to examine the association between the COVID-19 vaccine and mental health -; found that unvaccinated dental workers who intended to be vaccinated had significantly more anxiety symptoms (20.6%) than fully vaccinated dental workers (14.1%).
The hope is that this is just the first of many steps in monitoring the mental wellbeing of the entire oral care team. There is much work to be done to dismantle barriers to treatment and prioritize wellness within oral care, as well as to examine future research into contributing factors to mental illness that may be unique. to these professions.
JoAnn Gurenlian, RDH, MS, Ph.D, AFAAOM, Director of Education and Research, American Dental Hygienists’ Association
The study is part of ongoing collaborative research efforts between the American Dental Association (ADA) and the American Dental Hygienists’ Associations (ADHA) to understand the impact of COVID-19 on dental health care workers.
“As members of the dental profession, we are committed to improving the oral health of our patients and our communities. Additionally, as healthcare professionals, we must be committed to our own health and good. -being in order to optimally care for others,” says study author Maria L Geisinger, DDS, MS, professor and director of the graduate program in periodontology at the University of Alabama at the Birmingham School of Dentistry. “Creating professional environments that allow for open communication about mental health among members of the dental team can reduce the stigma surrounding mental health diagnoses and treatments for dental health workers.”
American Dental Association