Identifying health issues through changes in behaviour — a checklist

Issues and challenges that can have a direct and negative impact on the health of dental practitioners and students may be subtle, hard to detect and difficult to articulate.

This checklist has been written to help you identify signs and symptoms that may indicate that you, a dental practitioner or student could be experiencing an emerging health or wellbeing issue.
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If you would like to chat to someone about getting support for yourself, supporting a dental practitioner or student you can get in touch with us by calling our confidential support line 24/7 on 1800 377 700 or sending us an email.

Changes in behaviour

Changes in patterns of behaviour do not automatically indicate a health issue. However, if you notice changes in behaviour and are concerned, this may indicate the need for a discussion with the person regarding their health or wellbeing.

Behavioural changes associated with a health issue can take place over a long period of time, making them difficult to recognise. As a health or wellbeing issue becomes more entrenched and severe, the signs usually become more noticeable.

This checklist includes some behaviours to look out for. If you observe any of these behaviours and are concerned, you can get in touch with us on 1800 377 700.

If you think a practitioner may be putting the public at risk, you need to let the Australian Health Practitioner Agency (Ahpra) know. You can read more about when to get in touch with Ahpra on their website.

Changes to look for
Physical signs
Attendance patterns
  • Changes in speech pattern - including volume, rate and tone
  • deterioration in appearance - unkempt or poor hygiene
  • increasing anxiety
  • increasingly depressed
  • excessive tremor observed
  • drowsiness at work
  • excessive sweating observed
  • gastrointestinal upset
  • marked nervousness
  • odour of alcohol on breath observed
  • excessive use of mouth wash, mints, chewing gum
  • wearing long sleeves at all times, or
  • unsteady gait.
  • Frequent absenteeism
  • pattern associated with absenteeism such as calling in sick after a day off
  • peculiar or improbable excuses for absences from the workplace
  • long coffee or meal breaks observed
  • extended and unallocated breaks when working, often without informing colleagues and without explanation
  • confusion about work schedules
  • tardiness in attendance
  • early arrival or late departure from work, or
  • attending the workplace on days off or during leave.


Cognitive behaviours
Professional performance and relationships
  • Difficulty performing simple tasks
  • difficulty recalling or understanding instructions
  • reduced ability to prioritise care or requesting increased assistance in the clinical setting
  • confusion and difficulty in following and processing instructions and directions, or
  • diminished alertness.
  • Increased irritability and easily angered when at work
  • overreaction to criticism relating to performance or general feedback
  • tendency to blame others
  • rigidity or inability to change plans, or
  • loss of interest in work.
What can I do next?

Contact Dental practitioner support
You can contact our service which provides free and confidential support 24/7 to dental practitioners, students and people who may be concerned about them Australia wide. If you would like to speak to someone call 1800 667 877, 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.

Emergency situations
If your situation is an emergency, please call the numbers below:

  • Fire, Ambulance or Police 000
  • Lifeline 13 1114
  • Suicide Call Back Service 1300 659 467

Contact Ahpra
To read more about when you might need to let Ahpra know about a concern see their ‘Concerned about a health practitioner?’ webpage.

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