The pandemic has increased depression and anxiety among dental health workers

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (WBRC) – A year-long study has found that the COVID-19 pandemic is increasing depression and anxiety among dental professionals.

Research published in the Journal of the American Dental Association involving teachers from University of Alabama at Birmingham School of Dentistry found that dental providers reported symptoms of anxiety and depression during spikes in transmission among the public during the COVID-19 pandemic.

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
  • 8.3% reported symptoms of 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 Advanced training in periodontics. “This was important, particularly 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.

Maria (Mia) L. Geisinger, DDS, professor in the UAB School of Dentistry and director of postgraduate education in periodontology. Photography: Lexi CoonGeisinger and his colleagues surveyed 8,902 dental health 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.

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.

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