Skip to main content

“It’s Okay to Open Up”: Provider Mental Health Resources

Posted on May 15, 2024 in Clinic and Provider Tips


In 2021, the American Dental Association released a report on dentist health and well-being that showed a surprising number of dental professionals — 1 in 5 — had considered suicide in the past year. This report raised awareness to the issue that many dentists are dealing with mental health challenges.

Following the release of this eye-opening report, an Iowa coalition was formed to help share the message to dentists that “It’s okay to open up. Mental health is overall health.” Delta Dental of Iowa is proud to play a role in supporting this initiative and bringing awareness to mental health resources for dental professionals across our state.

Why dentists face mental health challenges

Following COVID-19, the dental profession saw a surge in staffing shortages, budget tightening, and additional requirements to protect the health of staff and patients. These factors compounded with the everyday stress of managing their practice and being a small business owner. The survey noted that anxiety among dental professionals had tripled since a prior survey in 2003.

Iowa Dental Workforce goals

Iowa Dental Workforce is the coalition that was formed to support the mental health and well-being of Iowa dental professionals. The group is supported by the Iowa Dental Board, the Iowa Dental Association and The University of Iowa College of Dentistry and Dental Clinics. Together, they’ve developed a strategic plan to support and advocate for the mental health of dental professionals.

The plan includes the following themes:

  • Prevention and early intervention – raising public awareness and decreasing the stigma associated with mental health issues. Providing outreach services to dental practices leveraging peer leaders.
  • Workplace and community – cultivating workplace culture around employee well-being, sharing educational materials, and establishing an EAP partnership for Iowa Dental Association members.
  • Tools and resources – sharing resources and toolkits on mental health and suicide prevention, identifying best practices for supporting mental health, and connecting the dental workforce to available resources.

Resources for dental teams

There are many statewide mental health resources available to support dental teams. Here are a few that we recommend:

  • Make It OK– a national campaign designed to reduce the stigma of mental illnesses. In Iowa, dentists can register their practice as a Make It OK workplace and receive a comprehensive Employer Toolkit and resources to support efforts to increase awareness and de-stigmatize mental illness within their organization.
  • ADA Wellness Resources – explore for articles, courses, videos and other resources across these health and well-being areas: mental health, physical health, opioid prescribing, and pregnancy.
  • National Suicide Prevention Lifeline – a national network of local crisis centers that provide free and confidential emotional support to people in suicidal crisis or emotional distress.

Dentistry is a helping profession, but sometimes we all need additional support. It’s important to talk about our mental health and find help when needed. If you’re in the dental profession, please help us spread the message that “It’s okay to open up. Mental health is overall health.”