Practical Steps for Dentists to Address Burnout Before Choosing to Sell Your Dental Practice

We recognize that, sometimes, a doctor may decide that their heart isn’t in their practice anymore and it is an appropriate time to sell their dental practice. This may be the right choice for them, based on their individual circumstances. However, we don’t want to see doctors making this choice because they’ve become discouraged and don’t see a way out. The following are some ideas of how to address the stress that you may be feeling.  

If you’re not sure whether you are experiencing burnout, first read our article Recognizing Dentist Burnout—A Self Assessment Before Choosing to Sell Your Dental Practice

Whether you are addressing or avoiding burnout, the first step will always be the basic, time-tested techniques of eating healthy foods, hydrating well, getting plenty of sleep, spending time in the sunlight each day, breathing fresh air, and exercising daily. Humans aren’t that different from plants or animals—all of us need these basics to live.  

If you aren’t doing these things, start now. They empower you to start uplifting yourself, and they really work!

Next, consider the following:  

Practice mindfulness – Mindfulness gets a lot of attention in the therapeutic community and for good reason. Meditation techniques create cognitive flexibility, allowing you to take a step back and look at situations from different points of view. This makes it easier to adapt, think creatively, and find new solutions to problems where we feel stuck. Research shows that mindfulness can reduce amygdala activity, which is the starting point for decreasing an upregulated stress response. Mindfulness can boost your resilience, improve your mood, and increase optimism.

Talk to a Professional – You know all about oral health, but maybe not so much about mental health. The right mental health professional will offer a lot of insight, practical techniques, and simple practices to help you learn to recognize your stressors and manage your physical, emotional, and thought habitual responses—thereby increasing your resilience and strengthening your coping mechanisms. We can’t always change our external environment, but with therapy we quickly learn we can always work with our internal one to create a better mindset and quality of life, and this increased self-sufficiency helps us feel stronger. 

Stay Active – Even though you might feel physically drained, try to exercise for at least half an hour each day. However, committing to even one short walk around the block between or after seeing patients each day will make a difference.  Also, if you can schedule a lunch break, take some time to go outside and be in the sunlight. Consider eating outside—and leave the phone inside.  Sunlight, physical activity, and just a few deep breaths can boost your mood, alleviate tension, and ease symptoms of emotional exhaustion. 

Create a Positive Atmosphere in Your Office – A negative and stressful environment contributes to negative feelings and stress. Encourage open and constructive communication patterns. Look for opportunities to praise, compliment, and point out what’s going right in the day.  Discourage gossip, cliquishness, and negativity thinking and talk—respond with a sincere but positive spin. Take time to build your relationships with your staff and encourage them to do so with each other. Talk with them individually about what they’d like from their job and hear their suggestions. A work environment where people like, listen to, and respect each other contributes to lower burnout levels.

And finally, try on a smile, even when you’re alone.  Even if it begins feeling forced, smiling has a proven, instant neurochemical impact on both the smiler and anyone seeing it.  It’s the fastest way to uplift others, something we all need more of each day.  

Improve Time-Management and Avoid Multitasking – Effective time management is essential in reducing stress. Multitasking and poor organization accelerates burnout and can become a vicious cycle. Set your priorities for each day and then organize your tasks around those. Stay focused on your priorities and goals for the day. Allocate a fixed time for administrative tasks such as answering emails, talking to suppliers, or managing insurance requests. Don’t let yourself get distracted by things that can wait.

Prioritize Your Work-Life Balance – Your life outside of work is at least as important as your work and should be treated as such. Set aside time for personal and family time and do not let work creep into it. Make appointments with your friends and social groups if you need to. Schedule your vacation time, and stick to your schedule. Make sure you get adequate rest and relaxation each day. It can feel uncomfortable to enforce these boundaries if friends and family aren’t used to it, but you can do it pleasantly, and you can trust that everyone will benefit in the end when you are more in balance.

Watch for Signs of Burnout – If you find yourself having negative, indifferent, or cynical attitudes toward patients and staff, low energy, dissatisfaction with your own work, and negative self-image, remember the tools you have learned to cope with stress. If it is a persistent problem, consider seeking help from a mental health professional. Review our article,  Recognizing Dentist Burnout—A Self Assessment Before Choosing to Sell Your Dental Practice for a start on how to step back and evaluate your situation.

Delegate – When you are the boss, sometimes it can feel like you have to do everything. If, however, you trust your staff, then put your trust in them. If someone else can do something for you, assign it to them. If you can’t, that’s a message there are deeper changes in order.  This is an area where investing in some software or other resources might also make things easier. Patient management software can help better manage patient schedules. Several routine tasks can be automated, and dental service organizations can help manage insurance paperwork and supplies at a low cost. 

Set Realistic Expectations – Think realistically about what you can actually accomplish and set your goals accordingly. Also, when you present cases to your patients, educate them about what is possible for their particular circumstances, not necessarily what is the perfect ideal.  Perfection is often the enemy of “done.”

If it is Time to Sell Your Dental Practice, DDSmatch Mid-Atlantic Can Help!

Sometimes it’s easy to get caught up in thinking that dentistry is a stressful profession and nothing can be done about it. No solutions were ever found with that kind of thinking. There is a solution, but you may have to change your approach to find it.  At some point, you likely will decide it is time to sell your practice, but you will feel much better about this transition in your career if it came from a clear headed analysis and not a negative reaction.

Here at DDSmatch Mid-Atlantic, we use our expertise as dental practice transition specialists to help doctors see what options they have. If you have reached the point where you are within five years of selling your dental practice, we are here to provide you with the options available to you and to support you throughout the process.

If you aren’t ready to sell yet, but see it on the horizon, you can also take advantage of our Practice Optimizer Experience, where we can help you put together a plan to be ready for a practice transition on your terms and at the time of your choosing.

If you are considering listing your dental practice for sale, contact DDSmatch Mid-Atlantic today and find out how we can help you meet your practice transition goals.