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Br Dent J. 2019 Aug;227(4):285-290. doi: 10.1038/s41415-019-0620-0.

An empirical study of how emotion dysregulation and social cognition relate to occupational burnout in dentistry.

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School of Dentistry, University of Queensland, Herston, Queensland, Australia.
School of Psychology, University of Queensland, St Lucia, Australia.


Introduction Dentists are frequently exposed to occupational stressors, including emotionally tense interactions with patients who are experiencing pain, anxiety and fear. Unsurprisingly, dentists are also a group that experience particularly high levels of occupational burnout. The present study provides the first empirical test of whether occupational burnout is higher, and general wellbeing is lower, for dental practitioners and students who have greater difficulties managing their own emotions (emotion dysregulation) and detecting and interpreting social cues from others (social cognitive difficulties).Materials and methods Ninety-six dental practitioners and 54 dental students completed validated measures of emotion regulation, social cognitive function, occupational burnout and wellbeing.Results Consistent with broader literature, rates of burnout were significantly higher in both dental practitioners and students, relative to normative standards. Importantly, the results also identified significant associations between rates of burnout with both emotion dysregulation, as well as one of the measures of social cognitive function: the empathic disposition to experience discomfort in response to the distress of others (personal distress). Ratings of emotion dysregulation and personal distress were also significantly higher for dental students relative to practitioners.Conclusion These data highlight the importance of being able to effectively manage difficult emotions in the dental practice.


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