Addiction in the dental profession

Dental practitioners and students are exposed to professional demands that may make them vulnerable to health issues, including addiction. Early intervention provides the best outcomes for people experiencing an addiction. As with any health issue, addiction is treatable with the right support.

If you are being affected by addiction and would like some support, call our confidential 24/7 support line on 1800 377 700.
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Workplace demands and self-imposed personal and professional expectations may result in dental practitioners and students resorting to harmful behaviours in an attempt to self-manage health issues.

These health issues, including addiction, can affect a health professional's ability to perform competently at work, putting the public at risk of harm.

Barriers for seeking help

You may be reluctant to access support and treatment for an addiction or mental health issue because you fear it may lead to:

  • loss of employment or ability to continue with studies
  • being deregistered as a dental practitioner
  • inability to work and consequent loss of income
  • professional and social isolation
  • stigma and judgement from colleagues within the team
  • legal ramifications, especially if diverting drugs from the workplace for own use
  • loss of respect and trust between colleagues and the wider community, or
  • threat to career advancement and promotion opportunities.

You may not have asked for support or treatment because you:

  • believe that you should have the expertise to be able to manage the issues on your own
  • are too unwell or unaware of the direct effect and severity of your health issue and resulting risk to others
  • feel ashamed and guilty about your behaviour or actions
  • have a sense of failure to self and the profession, causing an internal conflict in accessing support
  • have feelings of loss of control and guilt about not coping
  • are unaware of treatment pathways/support available, or
  • are unsure where to access support or navigate your way through treatment.
Don’t delay seeking advice and support

Dental practitioners should not delay seeking professional advice for their health, nor should they be worried about being the subject of a mandatory notification.

A treating practitioner is only required to make a mandatory notification in very specific circumstances, when there is a substantial risk of harm to the public (a very high threshold for reporting risk of harm to the public) or in cases of sexual misconduct.

This follows amendments to the Health Practitioner Regulation National Law in 2019 which aim to give practitioners confidence to seek advice and support for health conditions if they need it, while continuing to prevent the risk of harm to the public.

The amendments also mean there are only limited circumstances when a mandatory notification can be made about a student.

More information about mandatory notifications is available on the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency (Ahpra) website.  

What can I do next?

Read some of our articles on staying healthy:

Our service provides free and confidential support to dental practitioners and students Australia-wide. If you would like to speak to someone call us 24/7 on 1800 377 700 or you can request support via email.

If you would like to know a bit more about the service before getting in contact — take a look through accessing support.

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