With increasing expectations from patients, dentists are spending more time worrying about what could go wrong than enjoying the work they do, Alun Rees says.

In the field of psychology, cognitive dissonance is the mental discomfort (psychological stress) experienced by a person who simultaneously holds two or more contradictory beliefs, ideas, or values.

Two years ago I wrote about cognitive dissonance relating to fixed NHS income and patient care.

I described the difficulty in being true to the espoused principles of the NHS and providing an adequate standard of care in the face of falling fees and Government indifference.

I mainly looked at things from a business owner’s point of view.

This time I want to examine the harm caused to individuals who are caught in the tightening vice of UK dentistry.

Eroded job satisfaction

The vast majority of dental professionals work hard, care greatly for their patients and strive to do a good job.

For many, the job satisfaction they should feel is being eroded and undermined by others who should know better.

The standards that are expected of dentists are significantly in excess of those who seek to judge them.

It seems that once you have obtained a BDS you are expected to automatically become a superhuman and perpetually error free, to anticipate all possible outcomes and to provide complete satisfaction to every patient in every case.

It is no wonder that dentists, young and old, are increasingly stressed when they are performing exacting technical work, often for less than enthusiastic patients.

These same patients are told to have expectations that all dentists were educated at Hogwarts to perform dental magic and they should complain when anything is perceived to be less than perfect.

The result is professionals who, instead of taking pride in the good they do, spend their lives worried and distracted about what might possibly go wrong and the consequence to their career.

The stress was always a challenge; the distress is unacceptable.