(This is the 2nd installment of a series. Part One is here: Ready, Set, Go! Are We Really on Cruise Control? )
Personality Types of Dentists (Myers-Briggs Type Indicator)
I know what you’re thinking: “What does any of this have to do with Cerec, Restorative, Orthodontics, Implants, and 3-D Imaging?” Fair enough question. I want to lay the foundation for how you can best evaluate and utilize your talents and knowledge using CAD/CAM and Cone Beam technologies. I will give you tools and information on how to dissect and analyze what makes you tick and thrive by “peeling away” the proverbial onion and allowing you to take an in depth look at yourself. As you will see, we really aren’t on “cruise control” in our practices and we must constantly re-evaluate what motivates and inspires us to succeed and move forward. So, let’s begin!
Before we explore personality types in dentists, let’s take a moment to review what we discussed in the previous section, “Dentists: Who Are We?” Dentists come in all flavors and sizes with complex personalities and spectra of ideas and emotions. In general, we are very compassionate and caring with obsessive-compulsive and detailed-oriented tendencies while sometimes being even narcissistic and self-centered. Obviously our personalities and how we process information don’t fit into a “one size fits all” category.
However, dentists do demonstrate a certain level on commonality that seems to be seen throughout the data. Previously, we discussed how dentistry often attracts people with:
- Unrealistic expectations
- Unnecessarily high standards of performance
- A desire for social approval and status
- Limited capacity for self-observation
- Compulsive personalities
- Isolation-driven personality traits
These characteristics often times can lead dentists to display several potentially dysfunctional personality traits, such as:
- Codependency and addiction (chemical & behavioral)
- Obsessive-compulsive tendencies
- Passive aggressive traits
- Avoidant personalities
Now let’s explore our profession and look at the complex mixture of personality types and styles that makes each dentist unique using the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI). The MBTI has been used reliably for years to provide an explanation about how we get energized, how we communicate, gather information, make decisions, how we measure our commitment to our preferences, and how we live our lives. It is an introspective self-report questionnaire designed to indicate psychological preferences in how people perceive the world and make decisions. In other words, MBTI can give an indication as to our preferences of things we like to do or where we want to do it. MTBI, however, is not a psychological test of dysfunction nor can it diagnose.
The Myers-Briggs Type Indicator
The Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) begins with eight personality functions in contrasting pairs:
Those who have a preference for:
- Introversion (I)– charge their batteries through solitude.
- Extroversion (E)– charge their batteries through social interaction.
- Intuition (N)– focus on abstract possibilities.
- Sensing (S)-focus on concrete realities.
- Thinking (T)– use objective criteria to make judgments.
- Feeling (F)– use subjective criteria to make judgments.
- Judging (J)– want to have things settled and decided.
- Perceiving (P)– want to keep options open.
(Note: Each of us has both sides to our personality, but usually we prefer one side over the other just as we tend to favor either our left hand or our right hand.)
- Introverts draw their energy from being alone while Extraverts become energized around people. Being an introvert or an extrovert is more than simply being either shy or outgoing but it’s how we rejuvenate and manage ourselves while replenishing personal energy.
- Sensors tend to focus on the here and now while those with Intuition look for meaning and possibilities. These deal with one’s style of gathering and processing information.
- Thinking/Feeling while self-explanatory deals with one’s style of prioritizing personal values.
- Judgers prefer structure in their lives rather than the messy flexibility of Perceivers. These deal with one’s style of organizing and structuring daily life and work.
“MBTI can give an indication as to our preferences of things we like to do or where we want to do it. MTBI, however, is not a psychological test of dysfunction nor can it diagnose.”
I have a friend that is one of the quietest people I have ever met. She rarely initiates a conversation and in fact comes across as “stuck up” to others. On the MBTI, she consistently scores as an extrovert each time she takes the test. As I was learning more about MBTI and what it reveals, I became acutely aware that she appeared to not fit the pattern because she was an introvert and very quiet on the outside. However, I noticed she enjoyed being around others that were extroverted and outgoing and I inquired as to why. She indicated that extroverts motivate and energize her to explore new avenues and ideas. This supports the idea that MBTI gives us an indication as to how people perceive the world and make decisions, not just whether someone is shy or outgoing.
(Combines Six Of The Personality Functions)
- Guardians (SJ) value tradition and seek security.
- Artisans (SP) are sensation-seekers and hands-on people.
- Idealists (NF) are abstract and conceptual.
- Rationals (NT) are born scientists and engineers.
Falling within these four temperaments are 16 distinct personality types, defined according to the eight paired personality functions in MBTI as previously mentioned. (For more information and self-test go to https://www.mbtionline.com/).
One study of revealed preferences of Dental Practitioners:
- Energy is obtained 41.2% from Extraversion and 58.8% from Introversion
- Perception/Information is obtained 66.4% from Sensing and 33.6% from iNtuition
- Judging/Decisions is obtained 66.7% from Thinking and 33.3% from Feeling
- Lifestyle is obtained 74.3% from Judging and 25.7% from Perceiving
Thus, the following letters (E-I, S-N, T-F, and J-P) are used in a combination of 4 letters to identify one’s type, e.g., ENTJ or ISTF, etc.).Several studies have indicated that dentists have a predominant style that is reflected in their MBTI.
- The J preference is over represented in national, dental, and dental student populations
- The ES-J preference is over-represented in national, dental, and dental student populations.
- Type distribution is consistent over time (1982-2011). (JDE, Vol. 56, 6, pp. 384-388, 1982, JDE, Vol. 50, 4, pp. 221-224, 1986, Unpublished, 2011).
- Most dominant single factor type is T and for dentists, E-TJ is most dominant. (Schaubhut, N.A. & Thompson, R.C. (2008). MBTI type tables for occupations. Mountain View, CA: CPP, Inc.).
Creighton University School of Dentistry (1964-1984) Study: MBTI was used to determine personality types of dental graduates (N=472). The MBTI disclosed the strength and nature of preferences of dentists.
Results: 54.9% (259) of dentists displayed four personality types:
The remaining 45.1% (213) of dentists were divided among the other 12 personality types without any type accounting for more than 6.1% (29).
Comparisons with a general population (N=9,320), the dental sample included more:
(Am J Dent. 1991 Dec; 4(6): 298-302)
Dental school education demands a rigorous work ethic, a constant drive for perfection, and stamina and endurance to survive. I’m sure we all remember this quite well. Let’s take a look at how our medical counterparts compare in their training to dentistry.
“One study reveals that dentistry includes more Introverts, Thinkers, and Judgers as compared to the general population.”
Comparison of Dental and Medical Students
- More obsessive-compulsive in degree and number of symptoms.
- Co-dependent (Interpersonal sensitivity).
- 50% less likely to seek help.
- More competitive and isolating.
(Lloyd & Musser)
A study of dental students by the Department of Psychiatry at the University of Texas Health Science Center in Houston revealed that psychiatric symptoms start early in our education and training.
Psychiatric Symptoms in Dental Students
- Mild elevation in somatic, moderate elevation in anxiety and depressive, and marked elevation in obsessive-compulsive symptomatology.
- Marked interpersonal sensitivity that may result in a sensitization to excessive performance demands.
- Manifest cognitive inefficiencies such as indecisiveness, blocking or memory impairment, and excess sensitivity to the evaluative judgments of other people (faculty and patients?).
- More psychiatric symptomatology than general medical patients judged free of psychiatric illness.
- Approach levels of symptomatology found in general medical patients judged psychiatrically ill or in need of psychiatric treatment.
In another study in the Journal of Dental Education 2009, Volume 73, Number 3, pp. 328-337, the collective evidence of dental and medical students over the past three decades strongly suggests that these students experience high levels of stress during their training.
Stress in Dental/Medical School Training
- Medical student stress decreased slightly with each progressive year in school.
- Dental student stress increased dramatically in the third year, generally coinciding with entrance into the clinics.
- There were no significant gender effects.
- Stress is highest concerning academic performance for both medical and dental students.
- Dental students were least stressed in the area of professional identity, while medical students were least stressed with faculty relations.
- Dental and medical students are stressed by grades, examination performance, and increasing costs of professional education (debt).
“Stress is highest concerning academic performance for both medical and dental students.”
- See faculty as checkers that give inconsistent feedback on work among different instructors.
- Rarely see role modeling by dental faculty members rather than providers of patient care as in medicine.
- Nearly always provide care independently and work with faculty members one-on-one.
- Academic Performance, Patient & Clinical Responsibilities, and Faculty Relations create a stressful environment in dental school.
- Typically shadow and support attending faculty and residents in treatment and patient care.
- Rarely provide patient treatment alone and receive far fewer graded evaluations than dental students.
- Realize a community in the medical student clinical environment.
- Have greater stress levels concerning their sense of Professional Identity (Medical students are afraid they will be seen as Imposters because of their lack of knowledge).
- Have very practical fears about choosing the right residency, plus matching and availability issues, with almost 25 % change their specialty choice after beginning residency.
It is easy to see how the demands and stress of dental education can predispose one to psychiatric illnesses, perfectionistic tendencies, obsession-compulsive routines, and alcohol and drug abuse and dependence.
In the next section, we will specifically look at the aforementioned stressors and how we as dentist may be predisposed to alcohol and drug abuse and dependence (addiction).