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The Great Resignation: Where it’s coming and how the dental industry can avoid it

Jan. 14, 2022
Dentists have faced many hurdles in the past two years, but the Great Resignation could be the push you need to transform your practice into a truly rewarding place to work.

The last several months have seen a tidal wave of resignations across all industries. The phenomenon, now known as the Great Resignation, is doing more than simply raising the quit rate of workers and keeping employee layoffs at an all-time low.

The Great Resignation is making way for a revolution in worker expectations, as well as changes in wages. It’s a new pandemic-era paradigm, and the dental industry could feel the effects of the phenomenon next. Your degree of worry and readiness may vary depending on where you live. On a positive note, there is still plenty you can do to avoid the Great Resignation at your practice.

Where to expect it

While a record number of Americans are quitting their jobs across the United States, the phenomenon is having a significant impact in certain regions. They include Georgia, Kentucky, and Idaho, where more than 4% of workers voluntarily left their jobs in August—the highest rates in the country at the time.1 These states also happen to be among the ones with the nation’s lowest minimum wage, the federally mandated rate of $7.25 an hour.

In a similar sentiment, a new study by Dental Care Alliance has revealed how the average salary of dentists and dental hygienists varies substantially depending on the state in which you’re located. In many states, the average dentist salary is over $200,000 based on annual mean wage, while in other states, it can be as low as $95,000. Meanwhile, dental hygienists make up to $133,000 in some states and as low as $37,000, in others.2

Dover-Durham, New Hampshire; North Port, Florida; and Portland, Maine are the places where dentists make the most. The mean wages are $286,540, $278,790 and $278,390 respectively. All the while, Shreveport, Louisiana; Los Angeles, California; Bowling Green, Kentucky; and Kahului, Hawaii are where they get paid the least, as the annual mean wage drops to less than half that number at $95,340.2

Likewise, dental hygienists are making the most in California, with salaries ranging from $102,930 in the city of Stockton, all the way up to $133,730 in the city of Santa Maria. In contrast, those in Gadsden, Alabama, are making as little as $37,850, followed by an average salary of $44,930 in Lima, Ohio and $45,250 in St. George, Utah.2

Although areas with the top salaries all feature a high cost of living, differences in compensation persist even after adjusting for this factor.3

How to avoid it

Several factors have contributed to the elevated quit rates across the United States, and businesses are getting original to improve employee retention. There are a number of things your practice can do to avoid the turnover of dentists—and especially dental hygienists.

An obvious tactic to keep employees satisfied? Increasing wages. A number of businesses have already revealed plans to raise wages, including Costco, who just raised their starting wage to $17 an hour. In recent months, Amazon and Target have both raised minimum wages to $15 as well.4

But to truly stop the Great Resignation dead in its tracks, employers must also understand the needs of their employees. Beyond higher wages, there is a need to offer more flexible working conditions and total compensation packages in our industry. Benefits such as paid time off, paid holidays, uniform expenses and laundry costs, insurance benefits, payroll taxes, and more, all show how you plan to care for employees. They are watching.

Related reading:

Invest in your “why”: Achieving your goals now instead of later

The staffing shortage is limiting dentistry’s recovery. What's next?

It’s no secret that the COVID-19 pandemic has shifted the dental industry and that it is facing a severe workforce shortage. As such, practices need to step up their leadership and communication skills, while ensuring that well-being is at the heart of employee experiences.

Looking ahead, dental hygiene jobs are projected to grow by 15.3% in the next decade, according to Dental Care Alliance, which is much faster than the average growth rate of other occupations.1

Your plan of action

Now that you have all the facts, it’s up to you to decide how to retain team members during these challenging times. If your practice is located in one of the states where dentists and dental hygienists are paid the least, don’t wait until it’s too late to find solutions to help your team succeed and feel valued.

The Great Resignation might feel like another hurdle in the road for your practice, but in the long run, the worker revolution could transform the dental industry for the better. Now you get to choose how you want to be a part of it. 

Editor's note: This article originally appeared in the January 2022 print edition of Dental Economics.


  1. Picchi A. 3 states lead the U.S. in the rate of workers quitting their jobs. CBS News. Published October 25, 2021. https://www.cbsnews.com/news/quitting-job-great-resignation-georgia-kentucky-idaho/
  2. Where Dentists and Dental Hygienists Get Paid the Most and Least in the United States. Dental Care Alliance. Published October 2021. https://www.dentalcarealliance.net/dental-practice-transitions/where-dentists-and-dental-hygienists-get-paid-the-most/
  3. Cost of living: How far will my salary go in another city? CNN Money. https://money.
  4. Meisenzahl M. Costco is raising starting wages to $17 an hour. Business Insider. Published October 26, 2021. https://markets.businessinsider.com/news/stocks/costco-raising-wages-to-17-an-hour-2021-10
About the Author

Don Gallo, DMD

Don Gallo, DMD, chief clinical officer for Dental Care Alliance, oversees all clinical operations for the 350-location group. Dr. Gallo graduated from Washington School of Dental Medicine in 1982 and is a member of the American Dental Association and Florida Dental Association. He also serves on the dentist-governing board of the American Dental Support Organization. Previously he owned and operated 12 dental practices in California, as well as a dental consulting firm focused on increasing hygiene, case acceptance, and leadership.

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