The first known U.S. study evaluates the mental health of practicing dentists and dental hygienists during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Research published in the Journal of the American Dental Association involving faculty from the University of Alabama at the Birmingham School of Dentistry found that dental health professionals reported symptoms of anxiety and depression during spikes of transmission in the public during the pandemic of COVID-19.
The study, titled “Mental Health of US Dental Health Professionals 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, and 8.3% reported symptoms of both anxiety and of depression. Dental hygienists reported higher rates of anxiety and depression symptoms than dentists at any time interviewed.
“This project was part of a broader assessment of the impact of COVID-19 on dental healthcare workers during the height of the pandemic,” said lead author Maria (Mia) L. Geisinger, DDS, professor at the UAB School of Dentistry and Director of Advanced Education in Periodontology. “This was important, particularly at the start of the pandemic, because we were very concerned about burnout among DHCP and wanted to assess the impact that vaccination and community COVID-19 infection rates had on the mental health of these providers. . Because they are caregivers, the mental and physical well-being of our dental health service providers is critically important to be able to provide optimal care to patients and communities. “
Geisinger and his colleagues surveyed 8,902 dental health professionals monthly through an anonymous web-based survey. They found that anxiety symptoms peaked in November 2020 and depression symptoms peaked in December 2020 for both dentists and dental hygienists. As of November 2020, 17% of dentists and 28% of dental hygienists reported experiencing anxiety symptoms. This number dropped to around 12% for both professions in May 2021. As of December 2020, 10% of dentists and 17% of dental hygienists reported symptoms of depression. This percentage dropped to around 8% for both professions in May 2021.
This study is also the first to examine the association between vaccine administration and mental health. The researchers found that overall participants’ anxiety symptoms decreased after receiving the COVID-19 vaccine, with approximately 20.6 percent of unvaccinated dental health professionals intending to be vaccinated experiencing anxiety compared with 14.1 percent of those who were intending to be vaccinated. who had been fully vaccinated.
“Through our research, we wanted to better understand the initial impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the mental health of healthcare professionals and work to support all members of the dental profession,” said Geisinger. “By focusing on mental well-being through training programs and developing support infrastructure to help healthcare professionals who may have mental health problems, we can better support our colleagues and their ability to care for patients.”
Read the full study here.