An article published in the Journal of the Canadian Dental Association claims that many dentists are at risk of suffering from a chronic mood disorder known as dysthymia. It's a condition the Université de Montréal Department of Dentistry is fighting - preventively.Dysthymia is characterized by loss of appetite, low levels of energy, desperation, excessive anger, social withdrawal and working long hours to compensate for declining performance, troubles in concentration, guilt and suicidal thoughts. A 2005 study published in the Journal of the American Dental Association claims that 10 percent of the 560 dentists surveyed suffer from this condition. However, only 15 percent of them are followed by a doctor and receive treatment. Wwhat about dentists in Canada and Quebec? The Ordre des dentistes du Québec doesn't have data on the depression and suicide rates of its 4,360 practitioners. That doesn't make the issue any less real according to Gilles Lavigne, dean of the Université de Montréal Faculty of Dentistry.
"When I was a student, we were already sensitized to this particularity of the profession," says Dr. Lavigne. "But it is a problem that affects all health professionals, not just dentists."
In 1998, the Université de Montréal established a prevention program to help future dentists cope with stress before irritability and exhaustion lead to depression. The program includes information and training on the issue. In addition, the curriculum now includes two psychology classes that focus on the theory and practice of the stress a dentist will face. Dr. Lavigne has known depressive individuals who have committed suicide, and he feels reassured by the prevention program now in place. "To my knowledge, there hasn't been a fatal act at the Faculty of Dentistry in the past 10 years," he says. "The program seems to have had the intended preventive effect. And depression is less stigmatized today, contrarily to my generation, youngsters today speak about it more openly. This helps us provide them with better support."
Université de Montréal