The first known US study assesses the mental health of practicing dentists and dental hygienists during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Journal of the American Dental Association involving professors from the University of Alabama at the Birmingham School of Dentistry found that dental providers were reporting symptoms of anxiety and depression during peak transmissions among the public during the COVID-19 pandemic.Research published in the
The study, titled “Mental Health of Dental Health Workers in the United States During the COVID-19 Pandemic,” is the first known study in the United States to assess the mental health of practicing dentists and dental hygienists during the pandemic.
During the one-year study between June 2021 and June 2022, 17.7% of DHCWs reported symptoms of anxiety, 10.7% reported symptoms of depression, and 8.3% reported symptoms both anxiety and depression. Dental hygienists reported higher rates of anxiety and depression symptoms than dentists at every time point of the survey.
“This project was part of a larger assessment of the impact of COVID-19 on dental providers at the height of the pandemic,” said lead author Maria (Mia) L. Geisinger, DDS, professor at the UAB School of Dentistry and Director of Graduate Education in Periodontology. “This was important, especially at the start of the pandemic, because we were very concerned about burnout in DHCPs, and we wanted to assess the impact of vaccination and COVID-19 infection rates in the community on the mental health of these providers. As caregivers, the mental and physical well-being of our dental providers is critically important to being able to provide optimal care to patients and communities.
Geisinger and his colleagues surveyed 8,902 dental professionals per month in an anonymous online survey. They found that anxiety symptoms peaked in November 2020 and depression symptoms peaked in December 2020 for dentists and dental hygienists. In November 2020, 17% of dentists and 28% of dental hygienists reported experiencing symptoms of anxiety. This number fell to around 12% for both professions in May 2021. In December 2020, 10% of dentists and 17% of dental hygienists reported symptoms of depression. This percentage decreased to around 8% for both professions in May 2021.
This study is also the first to examine the association between vaccine administration and mental health. Researchers found participants’ anxiety symptoms overall decreased after receiving the COVID-19 vaccine, with approximately 20.6% of unvaccinated dental professionals intending to get vaccinated. experiencing anxiety, compared to 14.1% of those who were fully vaccinated.
“Through our research, we wanted to better understand the initial impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on DHCW mental health and work to support all members of the dental profession,” Geisinger said. “By focusing on mental well-being through training programs and developing a support infrastructure to help DHCWs who may be experiencing mental health issues, we can better support our colleagues and their ability to take patient care.
Read the full study here.