How the Well-Being Index has helped my mental health

Photo of Jarod Johnson, D.D.S.

Blogger Jarod Johnson, D.D.S., has a private practice in Muscatine, Iowa. Dr. Johnson earned his dental degree from the University of Iowa College of Dentistry and Dental Clinics and received advanced training in behavior management, sedation, hospital dentistry, trauma, special health care needs, interceptive orthodontics, space maintenance, oral hygiene and dietary counseling at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas School of Dental Medicine.

As dentists, it is important for us to understand mental health illnesses are on a continuum, from mild or none to moderate or severe, and they are diagnosable and treatable health conditions. Everyone has a state of mental health and wellness, which can be good or poor or somewhere in between. Mental health and wellness can vary or change at different ages and phases and changes in life. Not having a mental illness does not guarantee good mental health, and similarly, having mental illness does not guarantee poor mental health.

Recently, I was reminded of this through meditation and my spirituality. I underwent events at work that caused a downturn in my well-being, and I decided to refocus through meditation and church.  During the meditation, the instructor said to think of events and challenges as waves in the ocean.  There will be ups and downs and times when things are rough, but there will also be times where the sea is calm.

As I work towards more optimal mental health, I have found that it is helpful to track my well-being over time. One of the initiatives from the ADA Wellness Ambassador Program was a pilot of the Well-Being Index from Mayo Clinic. The index is an anonymous self-assessment tool that was created to measure distress, well-being, quality of life, fatigue and provider burnout.

The ADA’s Council on Dental Practice and Dental Team Wellness Advisory Committee have been advocating for mental health and wellness for oral health care providers. The ADA created the Wellness Ambassador Program and hosted a Health and Well-Being Summit in September 2023. At the summit, each wellness ambassador was able to share their work in progressing mental health and well-being.

Through my wellness journey, I was able to be a part of the Well-Being Index pilot program and take monthly self-assessments. When I took my first assessment, I realized I had fallen below average and was able to change my path through my habits at home and work. I have found the monthly assessments also keep my wellness on track even when I am not in a state of poor mental health, as I have feedback about where I am as a health care professional.

Recently, the ADA made the index available to all members of the organization, including dental students. The assessment only takes a minute to complete, provides immediate ADA and some state-specific resources to participants, and allows them to track their progress over time.

Personally, the index has been a wonderful resource, not just when times have been challenging for me, but also at times when I am well. I would encourage all members to utilize the index, as our bodies and minds are our greatest resources in our journey of life.

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