Salwa A. AlSadhan1 BDS, MSc
Amel G. Darwish2 BDS, MSc, PhD
Abeer AlSwailem3 BDS
Amal AlShehri4 BDS
AlHanouf AlMutrafi5 BDS
AIM: To assess the prevalence of psychosocial hazards encountered by dentists working in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia and evaluate the factors that might be related to these hazards.
METHODOLOGY: This is a cross-sectional descriptive study, in which a sample of 623 dentists was selected from governmental hospitals, private hospitals and clinics, and academic institutions in Riyadh. Each selected dentist was asked to fill a questionnaire concerning the encountered psychosocial challenges caused by the dental profession. Scores were recorded and data analysis was performed using the MS Office Excel and the Statistical Package for the Social Sciences (SPSS version 20). Comparisons were performed using Chi-square test.
RESULTS: The most prevalent psychosocial hazards reported were lack of time available to spend with their families (78.6%) followed by being under stress (75.7%). Regarding worries related to the dental profession, dealing with uncooperative or anxious patients was reported by the majority of the participants (75.4%), followed by causing pain (73.5%), then running behind schedule (71.1%). A statistically significant relation was found between gender and lack of time available for dentists to spend with their families (p=0.024) as females were affected more than their male counterparts. There were statistically significant relations between type of practice (governmental, private or academic) and both lack of free time and neglected family needs (p=0.028 and 0.007, respectively).
CONCLUSION: Reduction of free time available and being under stress were the main psychosocial hazards encountered by dentists working in Riyadh. The most common related factors were dealing with uncooperative or anxious patients, worrying about causing pain to patients, and running behind schedules.
HOW TO CITE: AlSadhan SA, Darwish AG, AlSwailem A, AlShehri A, AlMutrafi A. Psychosocial Hazards among Dentists Working in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. J Pak Dent Assoc 2016; 25(4): 150-57
KEYWORDS: Psychosocial, hazards, Dentists, Riyadh, Saudi Arabia.
Received: 29 October 2016, Accepted: 25 December 2016
Awareness of occupational hazards started as far back as the 18th century when Bernardino Ramazzini, often called “the father of occupational medicine”, founded the bases of occupational medicine in his book “Diseases of Workers”1 . Modern Dentistry has been cited as the least hazardous of all occupations, but despite the numerous advancements, many risks still challenge the status of it2 . In comparison with other high-risk medical professionals, dentists report worse and more frequent health problems3 . Dental personnel are exposed to various occupational hazards including exposure to infections, percutaneous exposure incidents, dental materials, radiation, noise, musculoskeletal disorders, dermatitis, respiratory disorders, eye insults, and psychological problems4-6. Some factors such as patients’ interaction, physical strain and financial pressure negatively related to the psychological wellbeing of the dental professionals7 .
Dentistry is unequivocally a highly demanding profession in which dentists struggle to manage long working hours, anxieties regarding cross-infection control, pain control, stressful noise pollution, communication with patients, medically compromised cases, time management8-10 and – often- handle all the above with exhausting perfectionism.(11) The difficulty of finding balance can stir-up issues of a psychological nature which metastasize to social impairments at work and home.(12,13) The physical aspect of professional hazards was acknowledged long ago, which lead to finding ergonomic approaches that provided a longer professional life and improved career satisfaction. The social and psychological hazards challenging dentists include burnout, decline in professional performance, job control, stress, depression, effects on family life, and early retirement12,14.
Job burnout is described as a prolonged response to chronic emotional and interpersonal stressors on the job, and is defined by the three dimensions of exhaustion, cynicism, and inefficacy12. Eventually, it leads to withdrawal from people, patients, colleagues or employees and from work in general15,16. Burnout has also been associated with absenteeism, intention to leave the job, and actual career change. However, for people who stay on the job, it leads to lower productivity and effectiveness at work, thus raising quality-of-care issues17-19. People who are experiencing burnout can have a negative impact on their colleagues, both by causing greater personal conflict and by disrupting job tasks. (12)
Nervous psychological state, tension, depression and other signs of psychological impairment should be taken into account when talking about job related stress in dental practice20. Dentists indicated that running behind schedule, causing pain, heavy workload and late and anxious patients as being the most intense stressors in their work21,22. Dentistry is a prestigious and a respected profession, but it is under public pressure, which may cause more stress to some practitioners23,24. This is particularly true for dentists who practice in a less than desirable environment and those who feel professionally isolated23. Like most depressed people, depressed dentists tend not to seek treatment. Some find it difficult to overcome problems if they associate them with personal failure25,26. In 2005, specialty and gender were studied as predictors of depression among dentists chosen randomly from the ADAs mailing list. The most interesting finding was that only 15%of depressed dentists were receiving treatment17. Specialty and gender were studied as predictors of depression among dentists, and results showed that gender was associated with depression, but specialty was not17.
Nowadays, a remuneration system has led dentists to long working hours, leaving little time to relax from work, and participate in family life25. Most dentists experience difficulties in balancing professional and family life, which renders them lacking time for hobbies, family leisure activities, neglecting family duties, and taking their workrelated anxieties home. These occupational hazards were mainly related to long working hours, which negatively affected all areas of family life19.
A study conducted among Australian dentists found that the most common reasons dentists expected to retire were to have more leisure time, to afford a life after retirement, and job stress or pressure27. Few studies were conducted to assess the prevalence and distribution of work-related musculoskeletal disorders among dentists in Saudi Arabia, and the factors associated with the disorders28,29. However, there is limited data concerning the social challenges caused by the dental profession among dentists in Saudi Arabia. This study was conducted to assess the prevalence of the social occupational hazards encountered by dentists working in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia and to evaluate the factors that might be related to these hazards.
This cross-sectional descriptive study was approved by College of Dentistry Research Center (CDRC), King Saud University, Riyadh, Saudi Arabia.
Each selected dentist was asked to complete a questionnaire; which included questions concerning the different psychosocial hazards of the dental profession. The questionnaire was divided into 5 parts; the first part was concerning personal information (age, gender, nationality, marital status, number of children, age of the youngest child and region of residence in Riyadh), the second part included professional information, the third part included 8 questions inquiring about how Dentistry as a profession affected their personal life, the fourth part contained 7 questions concerning challenges and difficulties in the dental profession, and the last part was about early retirement. The questions of the last 3 parts called for a yes/no answer. A tick box layout was used for the provision of the appropriate answer.
The questionnaire was adopted and modified from forms of previous studies4,12-18,22. In addition, face and content validity of the questionnaire was evaluated by 3 independent faculty members of the College of Dentistry. A pilot study was conducted through distributing the questionnaire on 20 dentists, who were not included in the main study. Adjustments to the questions were done accordingly. Eight-hundred questionnaires were distributed in governmental and private dental health sectors in Riyadh. It was distributed to both male and female, Saudi and nonSaudi dentists from all age groups and with any qualifications. Regarding the governmental sector, 250 questionnaires were distributed in hospitals, and 150 were distributed in the College of Dentistry, King Saud University. For the private sector, 250 questionnaires were distributed in private hospitals and clinics, and 150 were distributed in the private dental colleges. The questionnaires were handed to the dentists and were collected at the end of the day in each site.
The governmental hospitals included Al Iman Hospital, King Abdulaziz and King Khalid University Hospitals, King Fahadand King Saud Medical Cites, King Faisal Specialist Hospital, Prince Sultan Military Medical City, National Guard Hospital, Security Forces Hospital and Al Yamamah Hospital. The private hospitals included Al-Hammadi Hospital, Sulaiman Alhabib Medical Group and Specialized Medical Center Hospital and the private dental colleges included AlFarabi Dental College and Riyadh College of Dentistry.
Scores were recorded and the data analysis was performed using Micro Soft Office and the Statistical Package for Social Sciences (SPSS version 20). Descriptive statistics were used to explore frequencies, minimum and maximum values, the mean, and the standard deviation. Relations between psychosocial hazards of dental profession and socio-demographic and personal characteristics of dentists working in Riyadh were tested using Chi-square test with a 95% confidence (p≤0.05). The relation of psychosocial hazards of the dental profession and the worries among dentists working in Riyadh were also investigated in this study.
Six hundred and twenty-three out of 800 randomly distributed questionnaires were returned, giving a response rate of 77.8%. The majority of the respondents (38.6%) fell in the age range of 23-30 years, while the least percentage (4.7%) were those of the age group of above 50 years old. The response rate tipped on the female end of the spectrum (57%). Two thirds of the participants were married (66.6%) and over half were Saudi citizens (55.8%).
Distribution of socio-demographic and personal characteristics of the study subjects is illustrated in Table 1. The highest percentage of the dentists included in the study were general practitioners (44.1%) followed by specialists (27.8%) and the least percentage (2.1%) were professors. Regarding the type of dental practice, 38.9% were from governmental hospitals, 34.9% from academic institutions and 24.9% were from private hospitals. The duration of working in the dental profession ranged from 6 month to 40 years. The range of the number of working hours per week was (0-84 hours). The range of the average number of patients seen per week was (0-80 patients).
The prevalence of psychosocial hazards among dentists working in Riyadh is presented in Fig. 1. The most prevalent social problem reported by the study sample was lack of time to spend with the family (78.6%). Being under stress was reported by 75.7% of the dentists, followed by dentists whose profession affected their commitment to social gatherings (72.9%). Plans of marriage and plans to establish a family were not affected by the dental profession in 55.7% and 52.3% of the participants, respectively. Over two third (67.5%) of the study subjects felt that their profession affected their ability to enjoy favorite sports and hobbies.
The prevalence of worries caused by the dental profession among dentists working in Riyadh is demonstrated in Fig. 2. Dealing with uncooperative or anxious patients was reported to be the highest worry encountered by the dentists participating in this study (75.4%) followed by worries of causing pain (73.5%), then running behind schedule (71.1%).
Table 2 presents the relation of psychosocial hazards of the dental profession with socio-demographic and personal characteristics of dentists working in Riyadh. There were statistically significant relations between age and marital status and postponing either plans of marriage or establishing a family (p<0.0001 and 0.002, respectively) as younger dentists stated that practicing dentistry had an effect on their plans of marriage and establishing a family. The relation of gender with reduced time to spend with the family was statistically significant (p=0.024) as females were more effected than their male counterparts. There were also statistically significant relations between type of practice and both lack of free time and neglected family needs (p=0.028 and 0.007, respectively) since dentists working in governmental hospitals indicated that they had less free time and neglected their family needs more than dentists working in other sectors. No statistically significant relations were found between the professional rank and any of the psychosocial hazards (Table 2).
Table 3 presents the relation of psychosocial hazards of dental profession and the worries among dentists working in Riyadh. Running behind schedule and meeting society’s expectations of the profession had statistically significant relations with all the psychosocial hazards (p<0.0001). There were also statistically significant relations of worries of causing pain, maintaining high quality work and heavy work load with all the social hazards (Table 3). There were no statistically significant relations between dealing with uncooperative and anxious patients and postponing marriage plans and neglected family needs (p= 0.071 and 0.075, respectively). No statistically significant relations were found between having late or broken appointments and postponing marriage plans, postponing plans to establish family and inability to enjoy favorite sports or hobbies (p= 0.088, 0.147 and 0.304, respectively).
This cross-sectional study assessed the prevalence of the psychosocial hazards encountered by dentists and evaluated the factors that might be related to these hazards .The data was collected from dentists working in governmental hospitals, private hospitals and clinics, and academic institutions in Riyadh. About 39% of the respondents fell in the age range of 23-30 years, which reflects the increased dental workforce in the late years and the general increase of the younger population. The response rate tipped on the female end of the spectrum (57%), probably because higher response rates could be yielded from respondents who are acquainted with the researchers who were females as well. Also, it might be the result of the easier access to the female faculty for the researchers.
The highest percentage of the dentists included in the study was of the general practitioners, followed by specialists and the least percentage of the participants was of professors. This may be due to the fact that most of the respondents were young dentists who had not got postgraduate degrees yet.
The psychosocial challenges with the highest prevalence among research subjects were lack of family and free time, having to skip social events and lack of leisure time for sports and hobbies. This agrees with Purine et al (2011)(13) who found that most of Lithuanian dentists had insufficient time to spend with their families and that they had insufficient time for hobbies due to work-related stressors. Being under stress was also highly prevalent among the study sample which is consistent with the findings of several other studies5,22,23.
Dentists in this study indicated that dealing with uncooperative or anxious patients, causing pain and running behind schedule, as being the highest worries in their work. These have also been reported by Moore and Brodsgaard (2001) as being the most intense stressors faced by dentists during their work15. Type of dental specialty was not investigated in this study, as there is limited evidence that the degree of stress experienced by dental practitioners may vary according to the type of dental specialty24. A statistically significant relation was found between the dentists’ available free time and the type of practice in this study. This might be because governmental hospitals have to meet all the family needs while private sectors have more flexible schedule and the academic sectors have longer vacations.
There was also statistically significant relation between gender and the effect of the dental profession on the time available to spend with family as females were affected more than males. Females usually have a complex burden of responsibilities as having to fulfill both roles of being a wife and/ or mother and a dentist. It might also be possible that females tend to report their psychological complains more than males. This however disagrees with another study that found that male and female dentists’ responses to stress were similar25. The older aged group did not report any effect of the dental profession on either marriage plans or of establishing family. This might be due to the fact that at that age, participants could not recall exactly what happened in the younger age.
There were statistically significant relations between psychosocial hazards and worries such as running behind schedule, causing pain, dealing with uncooperative or anxious patients, maintaining the quality of work, heavy load of work and meeting society’s expectations of the prestigious profession. This agrees with Moore and Brodsgaard (2001) who found that running behind schedule and causing pain were sources of stress in the dental profession15. With regards to anxious patients, dentists need to spend more time with them and they might ask for changing the treatment plan or refuse to pay their bills which put dentists under more stress. Ayers et al (2008) also reported that time pressure was a main source of stress among dental professionals22.
This study was cross-sectional which does not allow the examination of cause-and-effect relations, limiting our conclusions. Based on the findings of this study, further analytical studies are recommended to evaluate the correlation between the worries and psychosocial hazards hypothesized through this study and to try to determine with more accuracy the causes of occupational health problems affecting dentists to help reduce the prevalence and impact.
It can be concluded from this study that lack of family time, free time and leisure time for favorite sports or hobbies was the main psychosocial hazard encountered by dentists working in Riyadh. Being under stress was the second prevalent psychosocial hazard of the dental profession. The most prominent related factors were found to be; dealing with uncooperative or anxious patients, worrying of causing pain to patients, running behind schedule, enduring heavy work load, maintaining a high quality of work and meeting society’s expectations of the prestigious profession.
To overcome the psychosocial problems faced by dentists, balance between work and family should be met. Practitioners are advised to establish a schedule in accordance to their priorities, thus creating enough time for their spouses, children and themselves to satisfy their social life. Maintaining good physical health is also emphasized so that they can enjoy their professional and personal lives. Practitioners are also encouraged to avoid isolation, strengthen friendship ties and join support groups of other dentists. Lastly, they should not hesitate to reach out for professional help when work takes its toll on their social life. Stress management together with personal and professional awareness training should be included in the undergraduate curriculum so that threats to mental and social wellbeing, which might occur during the professional life, might be avoided or addressed. This could be done through providing more specialized courses and activities regarding occupational health and safety.
On a larger scale, it is recommended that dental institutions in Riyadh establish well-organized and flexible schedules more suitable to dentists. On a national level, it is suggested that legislations would be applied by health authorities endorsing an increase in the number of clinics and practitioners to meet the population’s high demands, and laws concerning working hours and working conditions would be amended, to protect health professionals from being overloaded with work and ultimately burnt out.
CONFLICT OF INTEREST
The authors declare that they have no competing interests.
We thank Mr. Nasser Al-Maflehi for sharing his expertise on statistical analysis generously. His contribution was greatly appreciated.
SA: Participated in the design of the study, revising the questionnaire, the data analysis and the final review of manuscript.
AD: Contributed in the design of the study, revising the questionnaire, data analysis and the manuscript.
AS: Contributed in the selection of the topic, development of the questionnaire, collection and analysis of the data and writing the draft of the manuscript.
AA: Contributed in the selection of the topic, development of the questionnaire, collection and analysis of the data and writing the draft of the manuscript.
AM: Contributed in the selection of the topic, development of the questionnaire, collection and analysis of the data and writing the draft of the manuscript.
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1 Head of Community Service Unit, Associate Professor, Department of Periodontics and Community Dentistry, College of Dentistry, King Saud University, Riyadh, Saudi Arabia
2 Lecturer, Department of Pediatric and Community Dentistry, Faculty of Dentistry, Alexandria University, Egypt
3 Intern, College of Dentistry, King Saud University, Riyadh, Saudi Arabia
4 Intern, College of Dentistry, King Saud University, Riyadh, Saudi Arabia
5 Intern, College of Dentistry, King Saud University, Riyadh, Saudi Arabia
Corresponding author: “Dr. Salwa A. AlSadhan” < firstname.lastname@example.org >