Finding Work-Life Balance as a Dentist

Mother playing with daughter in kitchen

No matter where you are in your career or life, achieving work-life balance as a dentist can feel next to impossible.

Whether it’s amplified by big career changes, unique life events or just the everyday grind, it can be difficult to manage all the responsibilities in your career while still managing and enjoying life outside the office.

If it feels like there’s a million things happening at once and your gear is stuck in survival mode, there are several strategies to help get you back in control of the wheel. The first piece to focus on is this: work-life balance as a dentist is possible.

Prioritize what matters most.

You wear many hats. You could be an associate, a practice owner, a spouse, a caretaker, chair of a local association or study club, a marathoner, a baker, an avid traveler.

Whatever your passions are, determine your priorities, understand what’s the most important to you and schedule your time around those priorities. Set your boundaries and know how to say “no” when you need to.

“Unfortunately, it’s not possible to be everything to all people at all times,” Cain Watters & Associates Financial Planner Angie Svitak said. “Consider where you want to spend your time and energy that day. If it’s more important to be at your child’s baseball game, then schedule it out. I encourage you not to give in to those social pressures where you feel you have to make yourself and your child’s Valentine’s Day cards look Instagram worthy.”

Construct your practice to fit your goals.

Especially when you’re in the thick of things, it’s difficult to remember that one of the advantages of practice ownership is the opportunity to control your own career and the time spent in it. Just because you have the added responsibility of owning a practice doesn’t mean you have to limit your options with what you do in life.

“You may want to pick up your kids from school on certain days, take a two-week vacation or play with your pickleball team on Wednesdays,” NDP Partner Christy Ratcliff said. “Whatever your thing is, you have a business that you can construct to fit all of your goals.”

Hiring an associate or bringing on a partner is just one way where you can customize your practice to fit your goals. With added help in the practice and an associate or partner who understands your priorities, you can work out a schedule where you have more flexibility with your time.

“There are so many avenues for structuring your version of practice ownership,” Angie said. “Don’t limit yourself because of your fear that you’re not going to be enough or you can’t have that balance or you feel like you have to choose.”

Have a support team.

Lean on people who are like-minded, and surround yourself with people who can lift you up. Seek support from other business owners, other working moms, other people who have similar thoughts and concerns. Build your community of people you can lean on for mentorship and guidance.

Sometimes, it’s a matter of talking through your situation with another trusted person who’s going through similar challenges. Regardless, your support team is made up of the most instrumental people in your life.

Not only should you have personal support, but it’s also important to have people in your life who specialize in areas where you do not.

“If you aren’t great at payroll or admin, make sure you have a strong office manager,” Christy said. “If you haven’t balanced your checkbook and don’t know what’s in your savings account, hire a financial planner. Hire people to handle the things that aren’t in your wheelhouse so that you can focus on what you do best.”

Take a deep breath.

With feelings of stress and anxiety obscuring the picture, it may feel as if taking a deep breath is a miniscule tactic with little to no impact. Yet, just as you remind uncomfortable patients in your office, deep breathing can physically signal your body to relax and lower your stress response. It calms the nervous system and therefore reduces feelings of stress or anxiety. Taking slower, longer breaths and being intentional about your breathing can actually go a long way.

This practice also offers a moment to pause and assess, which can help you to be focused and relaxed. This can help promote productivity, allowing you to view the task at hand as a problem to be solved or learned from as opposed to seeing it as a roadblock.

Success looks different for everyone.

Comparing yourself to others can be a difficult hurdle to maneuver around, especially when you’re trying to achieve work-life balance as a dentist. However, this is about creating your own dream rather than fitting into someone else’s.

If you have questions about the various paths to practice ownership, or if you’re looking for ways to construct your practice to fit your goals, our team of dental transition advisors can provide guidance and talk through your specific situation.