The first known US study to evaluate the mental health of frontline dentists and dental hygienists during the pandemic found that dental health care workers report anxiety and depression symptoms during peaks of transmission among the public.
Published jointly in the August issues of The Journal of the American Dental Association and the Journal of Dental Hygiene, the study indicates between June 2020 and June 2021, 17.7 per cent of dental health care workers reported anxiety symptoms, 10.7 per cent reported depression symptoms, and 8.3 per cent reported symptoms of both.
The one-year study conducted from June 2020 to June 2021, included 8902 dental health care workers participating monthly in an anonymous longitudinal, web-based survey.
According to the findings, between June 2020 and June 2021, dental hygienists reported higher rates of depression symptoms than dentists at each surveyed time point, with depression symptom rates peaking in December 2020. Dental hygienists’ depression rates declined in 2021 as dentists’ rates of depression symptoms remained steady. At the end of the study period, both groups had relatively similar rates—11.8 per cent for dentists and 12.4 per cent for hygienists.
“Interestingly, dental health care workers reported lower rates of anxiety and depression symptoms than the general public, despite being on the front lines and providing oral health care during the pandemic,” said author Stacey Dershewitz of the Center Clinic at the George Washington University Professional Psychology Program.
Some participants’ anxiety symptoms decreased after receiving the COVID-19 vaccine. The study—also the first to examine the association between the COVID-19 vaccine and mental health—found that unvaccinated dental health care workers who intended to be vaccinated suffered significantly more anxiety symptoms compared to fully-vaccinated dental health care workers.
The study is part of ongoing collaborative research efforts between the American Dental Association and the American Dental Hygienists’ Association to understand COVID-19’s impact on dental health care workers.
If this story has raised concerns for you, or someone you know, please contact Dental Practitioner Support for 24/7, free and confidential counselling at 1800 377 700.