Cavity Dental Staff Blog

Signs and Symptoms of Burnout and a Guide to Staying Well

20th Mar 2023
burnout at work

Signs and symptoms of burnout are a state of physical and emotional exhaustion.

It can occur when you experience long-term stress in your job, or when you have worked in a physically or emotionally draining role for a long time’- Mental Health UK.

As a dental nurse, the job can be demanding physically and emotionally. This can cause signs and symptoms of burnout.

A typical working week, includes Travel and a wide range of treatments which challenges our thinking and learning.

Burnout signs and symptoms tend to creep up without us realising as we tend to work on auto pilot.

burnout at work

In this guide we consider things that trigger burnout as well as tips on staying well

To stay well and avoid burnout, you need to know your rights and responsibilities as a dental nurse.

Your rights:

  • You have the right to respect in the workplace
  • You have the right to receive training on how to do your job properly.
  • You have the right to ask for support if you feel that there is something wrong in your workplace, whether it relates to work or personal matters.

Your responsibilities:

  • You should complete any tasks assigned to you by your employer or manager at the level of standard expected.

What are the Signs & Symptoms of Burnout?

To avoid burn out, we need to know the signs and what to look out for:


  • Feeling tired, low in energy and drained
  • Having difficulty sleeping
  • Experiencing a change in appetite
  • Dealing with headaches or muscle pain
  • More prone to illness as the immune system weakens


  • Lacking motivation and enthusiasm for work or hobbies
  • Experiencing feelings of self-doubt and failure leading to depression
  • Feeling overwhelmed and anxious
  • An overall feeling of dissatisfaction


  • Social isolation and wanting to avoid everyone
  • Not performing your responsibilities
  • Work-related anger outbursts

Talk to us

Once you recognise burnout, you can start to move forward. At Cavity we encourage communication.

  • Speak to your manager and tell them how you are feeling. They will be able to offer support and together you can come up with an action plan that can help relieve stress.
  • Contact our Health & Wellbeing support staff that are here to listen and offer further help with ‘check in’ calls every week or a referral to our Employee Assistance Programme (EAP) for counselling sessions.
  • The free, Health Assured app is a wealth of resources from articles to read and podcasts to listen to. It's a great space to determined whether you need to self-refer for further help.
  • Talk to work colleagues or those in a similar role. It’s so important not to compare yourself against others when it comes to workloads because everyone has different demands on them every day depending on their job title and responsibilities within the workplace.

Burn out is not uncommon, don’t think you are the only person going through it. Talking with family and friends will make you realise how many people have experienced it or know someone who has. Finding the reason why you have got to this point can sometimes come about in a conversation, they may just point out you are doing too much and putting yourself under too much pressure. A little adjustment in your work or personal life could just be what is needed to relieve that added stress.

health and wellbeing


Set goals

Setting personal goals is a good way to help you stay focused on your health and well-being. The most important rule when setting a goal is that it should be specific, measurable, achievable, and realistic.

Take time out

This could be a few days or a week. Sometimes you automatically go with the flow and don’t realise the last time you had any sort of break to recharge and take time for yourself.

In your day to day work it is also important to get breaks in. Sometimes we have a long drive to work and instead of rushing in to start your day, arrive early and take some time sitting in your car to finish your drink, finish listening to a song or taking in some breaths.

While the clinician is finishing notes, maybe do a few stretches and refocus on your posture or focus on your breathing, simple breathing exercises will do wonders for improving mental clarity and relieving stress.

Use your lunchtime to go for a walk and take in your surroundings- you might also find a café to sit in.

When working at a station or desk, moving around is important. It helps stimulate the brain, keeps you focused, and helps prevent fatigue. It's also good to get away from your desk or station at least once every hour so that you can take a short walk around the surgery or a walk in the garden.

Giving yourself breaks and fresh air is essential to our health & wellbeing.


Prepare lunch the day before so you know it is a balanced diet. Make sure that your meals are well balanced and include food from all the food groups.

Drink plenty of water throughout the day. Water can help to keep your skin looking healthy and will keep you hydrated when you're working long hours on your feet or sitting in front of a computer screen all day.

Avoid caffeine as this can cause restlessness, headaches, stomach upset, high blood pressure and irregular heartbeats if consumed in large quantities so it's best not to drink too much tea or coffee during the day at work. Alcohol is also very dehydrating so try not to have more than one alcoholic beverage per night if possible - this will help prevent hangovers too.


Expectations of you can be very high. It can be overwhelming for example, to walk into the chaos of a short staffed practice you don't know. Yes, you are there to help as much as possible, but it is important to remember your limitations.  Saying “yes” to everything that is asked of you can be dangerous. You may find yourself drowning in too many tasks so before responding take a moment and don’t be afraid to politely say “no”.

Mindful Techniques

You can learn how to meditate and use mindfulness in your daily life, while also taking care of yourself and improving your mental health.


Meditating is usually done while sitting still, however try walking meditation or mindful stretching instead. Or just take some deep breaths and notice how that feels in your body as an alternative to sitting down for a moment.

When you get distracted, gently bring yourself back into focus on whatever task you were doing before being distracted. Don't worry if you were distracted, it gets easier over time as long as we try not to judge ourselves too harshly every time it happens (which only adds more stress).

Also remember that we all have different ways of learning new things—what works best for one person might not work well at all for someone else.



Feel Joy

Release those happy hormones. Make time to do things that make your heart happy and bring joy to your life. Be it, socialising and seeing loved ones or having time for yourself and having a pamper evening. Everyone has different needs and things that make others happy may not be for you – don’t be pressured into doing something that you do not enjoy.

To Conclude

As a dental nurse it can become overwhelming considering the tasks we have on a day-to-day basis, it can be easy to let your patients and the daily grind take over, but it's important to remind yourself that you're human too.


It's natural that you'll feel tired and stressed at times, but when you find yourself getting burned out, it's time to make a change for your mental health. Your wellbeing is very important and its essential that you look after yourself.


We hope this guide has helped you find ways to care for yourself and avoid burnout. We encourage you to keep these tips in mind as a dental nurse, so that you can continue doing the job that you love while also taking care of yourself and living a happy life outside of work.