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Tackling stress in dentistry

We want to find out what the causes of stress are, so that we can find solutions to support dentists and to help foster positive working environments.

What's the problem?

Promoting wellbeing and looking at the causes of stress and burnout are key strategic aims for us, and we are investigating the underlying reasons for low levels of morale and job satisfaction in the profession.

Recent studies show high levels of stress and burnout amongst UK dentists, with GDPs showing some of the highest levels of stress. 


What is the BDA doing about stress in dentistry? 

We've welcomed the Health Secretary's announcement that dentists in England will at last have access to a comprehensive mental health service on par with doctors. The NHS Practitioner Health programme offers free access to their confidential advice and support - staffed by experts whose training is tailored to understand the specific circumstances of clinical life.


We have long called for dentists to be given access to this service and are pleased that our research showing the high levels of stress many dentists are experiencing has finally been recognised and addressed.


We've also provided all members with access to Health Assured, a comprehensive confidential service designed to help you deal with personal and professional problems that could be affecting your home life or work life, health, and general wellbeing. Members can access the helpline 24/7, 365 days a year.


Each year, we provide evidence to the Government's pay review body (the DDRB), which includes our findings on the levels of morale and motivation amongst dentists and the impact this can have on patient care. 


What support can dentists in Northern Ireland, Scotland, and Wales access?

Across the UK, the levels of support and access to services to help NHS/Health Service dentists cope with stress has been patchy. Some of the services available to you are highlighted here, further down this page you will see additional lists of resources and support available to dentists in the UK.


Northern Ireland


- Occupational Health and Inspire NI counselling are available to all dentists in NI and DCPs in the salaried services and are accessible by self-referral.


- If you are worried about your own or a colleagues mental health, drug or alcohol use, you can contact the Dentists Health Support Trust for professional and confidential support and advice.


- Eating well, keeping fit and getting a good night’s sleep is key to being able to cope with daily pressures. The HSC NI in conjunction with ORCHA have launched a Healthcare Apps Library. Available apps include; stress management, staying fit, well-being and improving sleep.


- For those suffering bereavement, there is help available for you and your loved ones through the Family Support government website.


- For those impacted by suicide or suicide attempts, it is important to reach out and seek professional help. Lifeline 0808 808 8000 is a free 24/7 support service based in Northern Ireland.


- Suicide awareness continues to be run twice a year by NIMDTA with courses being hosted inside and outside Belfast. There is access for the whole dental team to this training module.


- Stress awareness and management training is available for all GDC registrants on the CPD hub in two one-hour modules.


Scotland and Wales


BDA Scotland and the Scottish Dental Practice Committee in 2018 have made great strides in getting access to the NHS Occupational Health Advice and Guidance Service for dentists and their teams working in Scotland in June last year, this service offers support to those experiencing stress, delivered through the NHS Boards.


There is currently no comparable support from Government for mental health well-being in dentists in Wales, and BDA Wales and representatives from our Committees are speaking to Assembly Members, Health Boards and Government to establish what support is already accessible and identify any gaps.


Our research into the problem of stress in dentistry

We do research into finding out the causes of stress in dental working environments and we work on solutions to coping with stress and burnout in the profession.


Our recent study found that nearly half of dentists say stress in their job is exceeding their ability to cope. The most stressful aspects of their role are related to regulation and fear of litigation.


Environmental factors, such as the NHS dental contract in England, especially the pressure to attain UDA targets – we have been calling for a reformed dental contract to be implemented.


We are also calling for dentists to have access to a dedicated, fully-funded confidential support service, similar to the service GPs can access, to help support them.


Read our research:

Find out more about our work

For the latest updates on our work, read our blogs.


Please contact our research team if you have any comments or questions.


Resources and support for members

  • Members - use Health Assured for counselling for emotional problems and a pathway to structured telephone counselling, legal information, bereavement support, medical information and CBT online 

  • Sign up for the free NHS Practitioner Health service: call 0300 0303 300 or email phone line is open Monday to Friday 8am to 8pm and Saturday 8am to 2pm.  If you need support urgently then go to your local A&E department, call the Samaritans on 116 123 or contact the 24/7 crisis support line by texting NHSPH to 85258

  • Our free online tackling stress course is aimed to help you identify the triggers of work-related stress, how you spot the signs and how you can overcome it
  • Find local BDA groups: Our branches and sections are a great way to meet with other dentists in your area, who can help support you both professionally and personally, get in touch with your local group to find out more


Other resources:


  • Financial support: The BDA Benevolent Fund is also available to help dentists who are experiencing financial difficulties
  • The Dentists' Health Support Programme provides dentists with free advice and support on health, alcohol, drugs and other issues. Tel 0207 224 4671 or email:
  • In Northern Ireland ‘Probing Stress in Dentistry’, a BDA-supported multi-agency group, has released a Probing Stress in Dentistry Framework, along with an accompanying letter from the Chair, 2019 BDA National President Roz McMullan.

  • Samaritans provides confidential support to anyone experiencing difficulties or in distress: tel 116 123 (UK) or 116 123 (ROI) - these numbers are free to call, or email:
  • Dentists in Northern Ireland can access local helplines: Lifeline NI, tel: 0808 808 8000 or Samaritans Belfast, tel: 028 9066 4422 (local call charges apply)

There are also several organisations that provide advice and support for anyone experiencing stress or mental health issues:


Anxiety UK - 08444 775 774
Support for people affected by anxiety disorders.
Anxiety Care UK - 07552 877219
Helps individuals to recover from anxiety disorders.
BDA Benevolent Fund - 020 7486 4994
Provides support for dentists (both past and present) in times of need or crisis.
Dental Protection - 0800 561 1010
A confidential counselling service for those suffering from stress and anxiety associated with a range of complaints such as litigation or dental council hearings. DPL members only.
No Panic - 0844 967 4848
Support to individuals (and carers of people) suffering from anxiety disorders including panic attacks and obsessive compulsive disorder.  
No More Panic - 01952 680835
Information, support and advice for those suffering from a range of anxiety disorders, panic, phobias and obsessive compulsive disorder.

Stress prevention and management in the workplace

ACAS - 0300 123 1100
Free and impartial information and advice to employers and employees on all aspects of workplace relations and employment law. The ACAS advisory booklet stress at work investigates stress in the workplace and offers employers helpful advice.
Health and Safety Executive (HSE) - 0300 003 1747
Resources for work-related stress including step-by-step guidance to help organisations assess the risks of stress and identify solutions for managers to implement and managing the causes of work-related stress: A step-by-step approach using the Management Standards.

NHS Choices
Comprehensive health information online, including information and guidance about health, support and social care services in England. See stress, anxiety and depression.
Healthy Working Lives - 0800 019 2211
Support and advice for employers to create a safe, healthy and more motivated workforce across Scotland.
Tackle Mental Health
Online resource to provide line managers with information on how to support employees (disabled or disadvantaged) experiencing mental health conditions.
Time to Change
Mental health information and guidance on creating a healthier workplace for employees and managers

Suicide prevention

CALM - 0800 58 58 58

Support to prevent men in the UK from committing suicide.
PAPYRUS - 0800 068 4141
Confidential help and advice for young people to prevent them committing suicide. 
Samaritans - 116 123 
Confidential support for people experiencing feelings of distress or despair.
Survivors of Bereavement by Suicide - 0300 111 5065                       
Support to those bereaved by the suicide of a close relative or friend.
Maytree - 020 7263 7070
A sanctuary for the suicidal and support to relieve feelings of despair and isolation


​Bereavement Advice Centre - 0800 634 9494
Advice and information for bereaved people on a range of practical matters following a death.
Cruse Bereavement Care - 0808 808 1677
Support, advice and information after the death of someone close.
Relate - 0300 100 1234
Relationship support and advice for all people

Psychological distress / mental ill-health 

Bipolar UK - 0333 323 3880
Support and information for people living with bipolar disorder.
Depression Alliance - 0207 407 7584
Support for people suffering from depression.
Mental Health Foundation - 020 7803 1100
Information on understanding and maintaining good mental health.
Mind - 0300 123 3393 (Mon-Fri, 9am-6pm)
Support for those suffering from mental health problems.
Mood Swings - 0161 832 3736
A charity which provides confidential information, advice and support to people with mood disorders, including their family, friends and health and social care professionals.
NHS Depression support groups
Comprehensive health information on depression.
NHS Practitioner Health Programme (PHP) - 020 3049 4505
Support and advice to doctors and dentists with mental or physical health concerns or addiction problems, especially where these might affect their work.
OCD Action - 0845 390 6232
Support for people with obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) offering them information on treatment and online resources.
Rethink Mental Illness - 0300 5000 927 (Mon-Fri, 10am-2pm)
Support and advice for people living with mental illness.
Samaritans - 116 123 (free 24-hour helpline)
Confidential support for people experiencing feelings of distress or despair.
Sane - 0845 767 8000
Resources and information on mental health. 
The Dentists’ Health Support Programme (DHSP) - 020 7224 4671
Advice and support for dental professionals affected by health issues, including alcohol, drugs and eating disorders

Addictions – alcohol / drugs

Addaction - 020 7251 5860​
Services to help transform the lives of people affected by drug and alcohol problems.
Alcoholics anonymous - 0800 9177 650
Support for individuals recovering from alcoholism.

British Doctors and Dentists Group (BDDG) - 07792 819 966
Support to doctors and dentists who are recovering, or wish to recover, from addiction to or dependency on alcohol or other drugs.
Cocaine Anonymous - 0300 111 2285
A supportive programme to stop people from using cocaine and other mind-altering substances (including alcohol and other drugs).
Narcotics Anonymous - 0300 999 1212
Help and support to those with a drug problem
NHS Practitioner Health Programme (PHP) - 020 3049 4505
Support and advice to doctors and dentists with mental or physical health concerns or addiction problems, especially where these might affect their work.
The Alliance - 0845 122 8608
Advocacy, training and a helpline service to those currently in drug treatment (or those who have accessed drug treatment previously/or will do in the future).
The Dentists’ Health Support Programme (DHSP) - 020 7224 4671
Advice and support for dental professionals affected by health issues, including alcohol, drugs and eating disorders

​Keeping up-to-date

If you'd like to be kept up-to-date on our work on this issue:

Working for you

Through policy and campaigning work, the BDA is able to ensure that the concerns of all sections of the profession are raised and that dentists' voices are heard at a national level: Join us.