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Practice production, prioritized: The dental staffing crisis

Jan. 24, 2022
The pandemic has resulted in many challenges for dental professionals, and the current staffing shortage is a prime example. What can your practice do to retain current employees and attract new talent?

Author's note: Levin Group has reviewed and prioritized hundreds of strategies to increase practice production. Each month, we highlight a powerful idea ranked in order of priority.

In our original research on the top strategies to increase practice production, we did not include having sufficient, highly trained staff. This is because staffing had never emerged as a key factor in increasing or decreasing production until the pandemic. Today dentistry is facing a true staffing shortage. For the first time in dental history, we are noting numerous practices that have lower production and revenue because they cannot properly staff or hire skilled staff members.

More from this series: 

The main issue is that many dental staff members, especially hygienists, have left the profession completely. In fact, research indicates that approximately 8% of hygienists have left the dental industry during the pandemic.1 Levin Group estimates that a more accurate number could be as high as 10%, considering hygienists who cut down their number of hours per week or have been in and out of dentistry since the pandemic began. Unfortunately, we don’t expect this staffing crisis to end anytime soon. We believe there is a five- to eight-year time frame over which practices will compete aggressively to hire a smaller pool of available team members. Furthermore, the shortage of team members and lack of skilled or trained dental personnel is directly affecting practice production. Here are six key areas that must be considered when it comes to staffing. The first three involve new hires; the last three involve existing team members:

  1. Recruiting
  2. Interviewing
  3. Hiring and compensation
  4. Training
  5. Retaining
  6. Antiburnout

Over the next series of columns, I will address each of these areas individually and include specific actions that can be taken to ensure success.

This month’s message is that it’s essential to take immediate action to solidify and stabilize your current team. One of the negative effects of the staffing crisis is that more of a burden is falling on other team members at a time when they’ve had to embrace new behaviors in areas such as infection control or advancing technology. As the training curve becomes steeper, it’s important to recognize that many team members will require additional training, compensation equal to that of new hires, and an enjoyable environment. Practices must immediately begin to incorporate these concepts, or the current team could be in danger of seeking other positions. Each of the six areas of staffing listed needs to be addressed, even if the practice isn’t currently hiring. As always in business, you must be prepared, have a contingency plan in place, and stabilize your current business so that it can continue to grow. Keep in mind that the ultimate objective of each practice is to increase production every year.

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


1. Gurenlian JR, Morrissey R, Estrich CG, et al. Employment Patterns of Dental Hygienists in the United States During the COVID-19 Pandemic. J Dent Hyg. 2021;95(1):17-24.