‘Pain and stress are part of my profession’: Using dental practitioners’ views of occupation-related factors to inform dental training

R Moodley, S Naidoo, J van Wyk


Background. Stress is prevalent among dental workers and students. A possible means to address this would be to include stress management programmes in undergraduate dental programmes. The purpose of this study was to establish how the current cohort of dental practitioners incorporate occupational health and self-care principles into professional practice, and their potential relevance to future curriculum design.

Objectives. To gain input from participants regarding stress and burnout – their causes, implications and prevention – as linked to their practice in dentistry.

Methods. A qualitative research design was used, with a purposive sampling technique. The study population consisted of dentists, dental therapists, hygienists and specialists. A total of 36 participants participated in four focus-group discussions to explore dental education, occupational health, stress and self-care. The data were thematically analysed.

Results. Dental training in the South African context, occupational health experiences, self-care, coping strategies and education were the main themes that emerged. Dental services in the public sector were reported to be overwhelmed by high patient volumes and shortages of staff and resources, which added to these stressors. The coping strategies adopted were exercise, stretching, reducing workload and encouraging teamwork. The participants believed that the causes of musculoskeletal disorders, and their impact, should be taught in dental training, as students do not perceive this as a potential problem. A multidisciplinary approach and teamwork training are the recommendations for curricula.

Conclusion. Stress management techniques and workplace posture assessment should be taught in preclinical training to make students aware of managing stress and correct working postures. A multidisciplinary approach should be used. Dental curricula should include occupational health safety principles.

Authors' affiliations

R Moodley, Discipline of Dentistry, School of Health Sciences, University of KwaZulu-Natal, Durban, South Africa

S Naidoo, Discipline of Public Health Medicine, School of Nursing and Public Health, University of KwaZulu-Natal, Durban, South Africa

J van Wyk, Discipline of Clinical and Professional Practice, School of Clinical Medicine, College of Health Sciences, University of KwaZulu-Natal, Durban, South Africa

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Occupational health; Stress; Dental education

Cite this article

African Journal of Health Professions Education 2018;10(2):96-100. DOI:10.7196/AJHPE.2018.v10i2.1005

Article History

Date submitted: 2018-07-06
Date published: 2018-07-06

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