Monday, October 10, 2011

Dental Suicide

I hate to start the week out on such a sad note, but this is something I wanted write about. If you do not like sad stories, please read no further.

I know many of you have heard about the suicide rate in certain professions and how dental always seems to rank near the top. I remember when I decided I wanted to go to dental school. My friends would say that dentists kill themselves, but I knew nothing about that statistic. So in my official dental school interview, I asked them about it. Their response was that they had known dentists that had killed themselves but it was due to poor decisions and getting in over their head! Well okay, I guess that could happen to anyone. I am not sure if poor business decisions are the reality of why it happens, but why do studies say dentist do it more than others?

Well, it hit close to home recently. Our office received a phone call telling us that a dentist we know had committed suicide. I was stunned and did not know what to think. I did not know him closely, but we were colleagues and had lunch before and we would talk when we were out and about. I even referred patients to him.

He did not have an over-the-top, extravagant practice and patients always seemed to love him. He did very good work. He was very fit and active, and always seemed happy. It is hard to place or understand what led up to this.

I understand depression can be very complicated, but it is very sad that things can evolve to this point. I do not know if it was related to work, home, the economy, or what. Dentistry is a very hard profession. I know there are lots of hard jobs, but I feel there is something extremely challenging about dentistry that can place a lot of pressure on people. We constantly have people in pain or discomfort that need our help. We console, diagnose, and treat - sometimes all in an hour. We fret over fractions of millimeters and have to do it typically multiple times a day. Numerous patients constantly remind us that they hate coming to the office and we are so expensive. We have staff that we work closely with that we need to keep satisfied. It can be draining and wear on us.

I have seen many articles talking about the stress and factors that are part of dentistry and how to relieve the stress, but I guess it creeps up on people and they get engulfed before they realize what is going on. I personally have had some dark days and try to remind myself and that all the problems are not as serious as I might think at that time and they will pass.

I believe having someone to talk to is important, especially a colleague that is in the trenches and understands the daily battles we wage. This blog does help with that in some ways. Knowing you are not alone I think can be very helpful for some people.

What do you think makes the dental profession more statistically prove to suicide?

When you go home and see your friends or family remember that is what is important and that is who you are really here for.

Keep your head up and I hope you have a good week.



Anonymous said...

I have no scientific proof, but I have long believed that the noise from the high speed causes some synapse to snap in certain brains and the suicide incident to be higher in dentists. I am sorry for your loss.

Anonymous said...

I did some research on this a few years ago because it got pretty tiring hearing over and over that dentists have a high suicide rate. What I found was that the average suicide rate of the general population is 1% and it varied slightly with different cultures. Dentists were at 1.8% as were physicians, accountants, lawyers and air traffic controllers. Not close behind were cops, nurses and prison guards at 1.5%. The real shocker was that female physicians were the highest by far at 3.2%. I don't know what to make of all this as it seems we've all known of at least one dentist who committed suicide. But statistically, we're not at a super high risk as society thinks we are. G

Anonymous said...

Good topic. My thoughts are that dentists are expected to be business owners, clinical perfectionists,and healthcare providers simultaneously. Naturally, it doesn't help that we have the legal profession breathing down our necks. I feel as though financing healthcare has evolved to be similar to buying an patients have become consumers. If we don't "make them happy" they either want to return the "product" or will sue for compensation. And thus you watch your reputation sink. The true feel of "care" has eroded. Someone should conduct a study that assesses the outcome of stress amongst dentists if the fear of litigation were to be lifted.

Anonymous said...

As a dentist and suicidologist, I'm putting together a research application at the moment. A problem with much of the research (and there isn't much) is that the parameters and statistical methods used make it difficult to do comparisons. There are also a number of confounding variables which have to be accounted for, eg If we were to compare research in Britain in the '60s with Australia in the 2000s, we would have to account for changing demographics (white and male versus increasingly female and multicultural). White males in general have a suicide rate at least 2 times higher than the general population, females (in most countries) a rate 4 times less than males. Some studies indicate perfectionists have a higher suicide rate - what are dentists?

Anonymous said...

No, no, no! Dentists commit suicide because they are exposed to very high levels of mercury vapor. Dental amalgams or "silver fillings" are composed of more than 50% mercury. Dentists drill on the mercury which releases over 4000 micrograms of mercury per square meter. Dr. Andrew Hall Cutler (Chemistry, Princeton, 1985) said that 95% of all relevant tests he's analysed of depressed patients have heavy metal toxicity, namely mercury. I know this because I was cured of suicidal depression from having my dental fillings replaced with composite (the white material, which is mercury-free) and through chelation (removed of mercury from the tissues using dimercaptopropane sulfonate). Dr. Cutler was also poisoned by his dental fillings, which is why he wrote the book Amalgam Illness: Diagnosis and Treatment. IT IS MERCURY POISONING! Also, check out the research of Dr. Boyd Haley, retired Professor Emeritus at Kentucky University. The World Health Organization says that the largest exposure to mercury comes from dental fillings.

gatordmd said...

I can't argue with you that you feel like you are better because your amalgam fillings have been taken out of your mouth.

But be careful when you blanket everything and say that everything bad in people's lives is because of amalgam fillings or mercury.

You are talking to dentists. We all take out thousands of amalgams a year. If you get mercury poisoning from taking out amalgams then we all are going to be jumping off bridges.

I say this because you can find research on just about anything you want now a days. I am not going to argue with you about this but....
I know some people are very passionate about these things.

But I have seen 99 year old people with 15 50 year old fillings in their mouths. I have seen clinically depressed people with out any fillings in their mouths.

But what JJ was saying is that this profession is hard. Especially when we don't put things into perspective. Faith and friends and family are so much more important than our practices or our debt or our nest egg.
This blog was just a friendly reminder.

Marissa Tamayo said...

Just a week ago a friend of us, successful dentist, 53 years old, has committed suicide. We knew her very well... I just came back from her funeral. She was smart, funny, independent, rich, had a loving partner. She left no letter of explanation. Nobody knows why..

I have my own theory why the rate of suicide among dentists is so high. Every time I get an injection of anestesia given by a dentist, it makes me cry and after that I remain feeling blue, depressed. So this is one factor to be considered. The boring machine to make holes and repair teeth.. they are used by dentists every day and all day long. We all know that this machines have an electromagnetic wave, besides the terrible noise, which can produce a negative energy in the brain. Could it not be responsible for the wish to destroy himself in someone who uses it continuously?

Anonymous said...

I am 65, graduated in 1973, and have worked in solo and group private practice as an owner and as an employee, in academics, public health, indigent volunteer care, and a great deal of CE work running study clubs and dental conferences locally and internationally. I've worked and taught in the US, Brasil, and New Zealand. In a word, I've been around. Many comments and opinions miss the point, by a little or a lot. We work with an organ system that is very psychologically loaded. Think of everything the human mouth does: eating, speaking, breathing, signs of affection as well as disdain, non-verbal language, smiling, frowning, and so on. People voluntarily, but with great trepidation, and swamped in myth as well as reality, allow this organ system into our hands. The burden of responsibility on us is great, but the burden of trust and sometimes endurance is great on the patient. But most of us fully or partially ignore this whole matter: Don't worry, this won't hurt. Wow, she's a difficult patient. The margin was so hard to see. Did I get that g.p. to the apex? COME ON, folks. Focus on the point. Suicide is a manifestation of an emotional and psychological problem, not a short margin. TALK to your PATIENTS about your relationship with them. "Mrs. Jone, I know you are fearful. Most people are. It's normal. Dogs and cats don't like strangers handling their mouths, neither do any animals. Our mouths are sensitive on all levels; it's natural to protect it from harm. My job is to see that your mouth is in good health and stays that way. It will take time for our relationship to develop etc. etc. etc." Remember Eric Jackson's advice: Only your mother, your lover, and your dentist ever touches you there. We need someone to talk to? Sure -- The Patients! Talk to them about this. You will feel better, they will feel better, and your staff will feel better. It's a good life.

Anonymous said...

There is no relationship between suicide and having amalgam fillings, not having amalgam fillings, drilling out amalgam fillings, being a wool worker in Washington or a psychiatrist or a female American MD (all higher suicide rates than dentists). What you have are too many people who want to exert power or influence over the lives of others (or make money from replacing amalgams), so they evolve a belief system that supports these motives, then they chase these belief-based myths, ferret around for obscure claims with razor-thin evidence, ignore the preponderance of evidence against their claims via conspiracy theories, and prostletyze at every opportunity to protect their self-serving belief system. Over 40 years, I have heard every conceivable form of rubbish propounded in these claims, and the science is unequivocal: dental amalgam presents no health risk to the user or the operator, and those who perpetrate claims to the contrary have only their self-interest in mind.


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