A dental practitioner’s guide to beating burnout


Dedicated to providing quality dental care to his patients, dentist Dr Kaejenn Tchia is also passionate about helping his fellow dental practitioners prevent and manage feelings of burnout.


Recognising the early signs of burnout

Kaejenn has been a dentist for just over three years. He first experienced burnout in his final four months of study, where he was put on placement in Townsville.

“It was the first time I had lived independently because at university I was living at college in Cairns, and prior to that at home in Darwin,” Kaejenn said.

“The new lifestyle caused me to start experiencing burnout because I wasn’t prepared for all these changes. But rather than dealing with it, I just swept it aside and just got through to the end of the year.”

Having always envisioned himself as a dentist, Kaejenn was excited to graduate in 2018 and embark on a career in dentistry. However, within the first 18 months, the feelings of stress and anxiety he experienced in Townsville were starting to resurface again.

“Even though I work in a practice with other dentists, it is still just me, my assistant and my patient. We’re still quite siloed.”

“As a recent graduate, I didn’t have the guidance I needed at the time and because of that I started to experience mistakes and failures early on in my career and I quickly lost confidence in my clinical skills.”

Read more on the benefits of mentoring.

“I was withdrawing away from any complex procedures and only allowed myself to do basic things and anything I didn’t feel completely confident in I would just refer to my colleagues.” 

“On top of that, with COVID and the pandemic all happening in my second year as a dentist and causing so much uncertainty in my profession, I started experiencing stress, anxiety and to the point of panic attacks as well.” 

Overcoming uncertainty

Kaejenn’s experience with burnout early in his career left him unsure if dentistry was the right career for him. Normally a bubbly and extroverted person, Kaejenn had started withdrawing from his relationships and his family started to notice how he was no longer enthusiastic about going to work.

However, despite the clinical challenges Kaejenn was facing, there were still other aspects of the profession he liked. And he knew quitting was only a short-term solution to a much deeper problem.

“If I didn’t manage what was going on right now, even if I moved into a different industry, what was going to stop me from experiencing similar burnout in another profession when challenges arise.” 

“The other option was to do the hard work and overcome this burnout and build a foundation of strength so I can have confidence in my profession even when I encounter challenges.”

Kaejenn’s tips for dealing with burnout

Speak up

The first thing Kaejenn did was tell his boss what he was experiencing. By opening up, Kaejenn finally received the support he needed.

“They actually started guiding me and allowing me to take my time with my patients to build my confidence again.”

While overcoming his burnout Kaejenn immersed himself in personal development circles and even trained to become a motivational coach. This gave him the confidence to share his story with other dentists. By doing this, he discovered that burnout was more common in his profession than he anticipated.

“Knowing this released some pressure for me because it made me realise I wasn’t the only one experiencing burnout. But it was also concerning to realise this was a norm in my profession and it was just accepted that burnout is going to happen and no one knew what to do about it.” 

Create a routine

Kaejenn has established a routine that he follows daily to help him stay motivated and focused. Every morning he meditates and lists three things he is grateful for. He also schedules in exercise, which helps him both physically and mentally.

“Running 5km every week proves I can make it to the finish line and I can overcome any challenge.” 

Prioritise rest

To ensure he is energised at work, Kaejenn aims to have a good night sleep every night and prioritise rest whenever he is feeling tired.

“If I am feeling extra tired I will prioritise sleep. I will use my weekends to rest and I have also scaled back to four working days to make sure I do not overwork myself.”

Reach out for help

Even though these strategies have made work more enjoyable for Kaejenn, there have been times where Kaejenn has had to reach out for support to cope with work-related stress.

Last year, he rang Dental Practitioner Support because he was experiencing burnout from a particular case at work. 

“I rescheduled the patient because I was not in the right frame of mind. After that I contacted Dental Practitioner Support and they helped me in that crisis point and reassured me that what I did was right.”

If you are currently experiencing burnout, call our confidential 24/7 support line 1800 377 700. To find out more about what a conversation with a Dental Practitioner Support counsellor is like, read our step-by-step guide to reaching out for the first time.

Dr Kaejenn Tchia is a dentist based in the Northern Territory. You can follow his work at the Limitless Dentist on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.