US dental health care workers' mental health during the COVID-19 pandemic

J Am Dent Assoc. 2022 Aug;153(8):740-749. doi: 10.1016/j.adaj.2022.02.011.


Background: This study was designed to assess the prevalence of anxiety and depression symptoms and understand factors influencing mental health among dental health care workers (DHCWs) during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Methods: Beginning in June 2020, 8,902 DHCWs participated monthly in an anonymous longitudinal, web-based survey (response rate, 6.7%). The Patient Health Questionnaire-4 was used to estimate rates of anxiety and depression symptoms. Changes in mental health over time and differences by demographic and practice characteristics, COVID-19 community transmission level, and COVID-19 vaccination status were tested using χ2 tests and multilevel multivariable logistic regression.

Results: Anxiety symptom rates peaked in November 2020 (28% of dental hygienists, 17% of dentists) and declined to 12% for both professions in May 2021. Depression symptom rates were highest in December 2020 (17% of dental hygienists, 10% of dentists) and declined to 8% in May 2021. Controlling for gender, age, race or ethnicity, and COVID-19 community transmission level, the authors found that dentists had significantly lower odds of anxiety symptoms (adjusted odds ratio [aOR], 0.82; 95% CI, 0.70 to 0.95) and depression symptoms (aOR, 0.79; 95% CI, 0.67 to 0.93) than dental hygienists. Compared with vaccinated respondents, those who were unvaccinated but planning on getting vaccinated had significantly higher rates of anxiety (aOR, 1.71; 95% CI, 1.20 to 2.44) and depression (aOR, 1.57; 95% CI, 1.07 to 2.29) symptoms.

Conclusions: DHCWs' mental health fluctuated during the pandemic. Anxiety and depression in DHCWs were associated with demographic and professional characteristics as well as perceived risk of COVID-19.

Practical implications: Mental health support should be made available for DHCWs. This clinical trial was registered at The registration numbers are NCT04423770 and NCT04542915.

Keywords: COVID-19; COVID-19 vaccine; Mental health; health care worker; longitudinal study; professional role.

MeSH terms

  • Anxiety / epidemiology
  • COVID-19 Vaccines
  • COVID-19* / epidemiology
  • Delivery of Health Care
  • Health Personnel / psychology
  • Humans
  • Mental Health
  • Pandemics


  • COVID-19 Vaccines

Associated data