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Oct 28
Depression, Addiction and Dentistry

Today I'd like to discuss a couple of specific wellness issues that are important to me and that we sadly see too often in dentistry.

Depression is a condition that affects many of us at some time in our lives. As we are aware, the stresses of life and the stresses of dentistry can sometimes be overwhelming.  For most, this stage in life will soon pass. However, for some, this is an all-encompassing facet of life. Depression will result in suicidal thoughts for some, and may also lead to substance abuse and substance dependence (addiction).

I have experienced with family and close friends, drug and alcohol addiction and suicide. The graduating class ahead of me lost a member through suicide. My class lost a member through suicide, and the class behind me lost a member through suicide. The statistics are shocking.

These are challenging issues. The College's sole mandate of serving and protecting the public is set out in the Health Professions Act. This primary role applies to protecting the public from a registrant who is unable to practise safely due to addiction, mental illness, or some other impairment.

The College has a thorough and confidential wellness program that helps registrants along the pathway to recovery. The heart of the program is a reflection of the College's established philosophy of rehabilitation, focusing on the registrant's return to safe practice.

The College Board recently shared in a day-long workshop with the BCDA Board and heard from a number of expert presenters addressing wellness issues.

During the day a number of significant obstacles to successfully entering and completing the wellness program were identified.

  • Physician evaluations – registrants need to be assessed quickly, but there is only a small number of qualified physicians available who quickly get booked up.
  • Difficulties arise in maintaining the practice. While the dentist is recovering, patients are not being seen for dental and hygiene appointments. This makes it challenging to retain staff and patients for when the dentist eventually returns.
  • Costs – assessment, residential treatment, and ongoing monitoring can be costly, but are integral to high rates of success in the wellness program. We want to consider how we can lessen this barrier, particularly for those with limited financial capacity such as CDAs.
  • Barriers to reporting – there are a number of concerns that might make it difficult (despite there being a duty to report unsafe practice) for someone to report a colleague or employer.


I'm pleased to report that both boards are working on potential solutions to these issues. If you'd like to share your thoughts on these items, please contact me at

Addiction is a disease. We hope that through early identification of the disease, accurate assessment by a qualified professional, and following a customized pathway to recovery, these individuals will safely return to the profession. This focus by our College represents a change in culture. Even though our mandate is to protect the public, we care about the health and well-being of our registrants. If dental professionals are healthy, the public will be well served and protected.

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