Spring Mandatory and Core to explore the science of happiness

Timothy Bono, PhD

Continuing Dental Education at the University of Minnesota is providing a new way of completing mandatory and core continuing education credits this year—culminating with a crash course on happiness.

The 2021 mandatory and core continuing education virtual session on May 7 allows dentists and dental clinic staff to complete their required credits by learning about updated infection control practices, ethical and technological discussions around implants, and updated oral cancer detection.

But this year’s day-long webinar ends with something different: a look at the science of happiness with positive psychology expert Timothy Bono, PhD, an assistant dean in the College of Arts and Sciences and lecturer in psychology at Washington University in St. Louis.

The closing keynote might seem incongruous with other dentistry practice-based topics, but Bono recognizes the importance of wellbeing and mental healthcare for oral health professionals and why this training is so essential.

“Burnout and other mental health issues are common (in dentistry),” he explained. “It’s easy in roles like this to get fixated on things that need urgent attention, but I want to call attention to things that are still important, but not as pressing: the simple daily strategies that have a big impact on how we approach our work.”

Those strategies are meant to foster a sense of wellbeing and strength through adversity—not to push away negative emotions or ignore pain. “The happiest people in the world aren’t ones that never experience anxiety, sadness, loss, or grief,” Bono explained. “They’ve developed strategies that allow them to cope with inevitable stressors.”

Bono hopes to share his research on coping and embracing one’s psychological resources in a way that speaks to the needs of oral health practitioners and how oral healthcare leaders can empower their teams.

“The single biggest predictor of happiness in a workplace is trust. If people feel empowered to make decisions, that can go a long way.” He plans to encourage attendees to allow themselves to be human, to foster collaborative relationships that ease patient anxiety, and to reflect on how the pain of the COVID-19 pandemic has taught us about coping.

“As hard as this year of isolation has been and continues to be, it’s provided us an opportunity to think about how we cope with the pain of sadness and grief and loss: feelings we’ll surely experience again.”

He hopes that, in addition to the practical skills attendees will receive on dentistry and oral health practice, attendees will walk away encouraged in their journey to find happiness.

“I hope they’ll take away a way to reframe adversity that’s happened over the past year and a half and do so in a way that they can translate into their practice as dentists and healthcare providers,” he said. “I hope they’ll be able to take a couple simple strategies to incorporate into their practice, their professional lives, and their personal lives that can promote a sense of wellness.”

Learn more and register for the May 7 Core and Mandatory Continuing Education session.