Solitary confinement? No, just dentistry

Feeling isolated? You are not alone. We are never really on our own, but in this job, it can sometimes be harder to find a lonelier place. Charlotte Wake encourages those in dentistry to use their collective understanding in supporting each other.

This great profession of ours is unique in many ways; it has its own language, there are numerous teams within a whole practice and we have working with the general public thrown into the mix.

This job can feel pretty lonely and perhaps some members of the team will be feeling isolated.

Is there any way to avoid this or does the set-up of the profession make this inevitable?

The Social Identity Theory (Tajfel and Turner, 1986) suggests that we like to be categorised and that this helps define some order. We have a ‘collective understanding’ together in dentistry that helps us have a sense of belonging. For example, as a hygienist I will not have experienced the exact same appointment as another hygienist. But, we will have a collective understanding of treating a patient with a strong lip guard and/or struggled with access issues when trying to reach lingually to lower molars. This, in some way, unites us.

This collective understanding groups us into the ‘hygienist’ category, and this in turn helps us feel less isolated. Other team members will be able to relate to each other in a similar way. It helps to define your professional identity, it can make you feel more supported and less alone in this dental world.

Similarities

In relation to loneliness and isolation, there are some similarities to dentistry and teaching. Teachers are part of a school team, but are in their own classroom, perhaps with a teaching assistant at times. They are responsible for the welfare and education of that class...

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