Exploring the effect of the COVID-19 pandemic on the dental team: preparedness, psychological impacts and emotional reactions

Gerry M. Humphris, Jennifer Knights, Laura Beaton, Mariana DeAraujo, Siyang Yuan, Janet Clarkson, Linda Young, Ruth Freeman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

18 Citations (Scopus)
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Background: The COVID-19 pandemic has placed increased demands on clinical staff in primary dental care due to a variety of uncertainties. Current reports on staff responses have tended to be brief enquiries without some theoretical explanation supported by developed measurement systems.

Aim: To investigate features of health and well-being as an outcome of the uncertainties surrounding COVID-19 for dentists and dental health professionals in primary dental care and for those in training. In addition, the study examined the well-being indices with reference to normative values. Finally a theoretical model was explored to explain depressive symptoms and investigate its generalisability across dentists and dental health professionals in primary dental care and those in postgraduate training.

Methods: A cross-sectional survey of dental trainees and primary dental care staff in Scotland was conducted in June to October 2020. Assessment was through “Portal,” an online tool used for course bookings/management administered by NHS Education for Scotland. A non-probability convenience sample was employed to recruit participants. The questionnaire consisted of four multi-item scales including: preparedness (14 items of the DPPPS), burnout (the 9 item emotional exhaustion subscale and 5 items of the depersonalisation subscale of the MBI), the 22 item Impact of Event Scale-Revised, and depressive symptomatology using the Patient Health Questionnaire-2. Analysis was performed to compare the levels of these assessments between trainees and primary dental care staff and a theoretically based path model to explain depressive symptomology, utilising structural equation modelling.

Results: Approximately, 27% of all 329 respondents reported significant depressive symptomology and 55% of primary care staff rated themselves as emotionally exhausted. Primary care staff (n = 218) felt less prepared for managing their health, coping with uncertainty and financial insecurity compared with their trainee (n = 111) counterparts (all p's < 0.05). Depressive symptomology was rated higher than reported community samples (p < 0.05) The overall fit of the raw data applied to the theoretical model confirmed that preparedness (negative association) and trauma associated with COVID-19 (positive association) were significant factors predicting lowered mood (chi-square = 46.7, df = 21, p = 0.001; CFI = 0.98, RMSEA = 0.06, SRMR = 0.03). Burnout was indirectly implicated and a major path from trauma to burnout was found to be significant in primary care staff but absent in trainees (p < 0.002).

Conclusion: These initial findings demonstrate the possible benefit of resourcing staff support and interventions to assist dental staff to prepare during periods of high uncertainty resulting from the recent COVID-19 pandemic.

Original languageEnglish
Article number669752
Number of pages11
JournalFrontiers in Oral Health
Publication statusPublished - 29 Apr 2021


  • COVID-19
  • Dental team
  • Burnout- professional
  • Psychology
  • Depressive symptoms
  • Preparedness
  • Impact of events
  • SEM modeling


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