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Managing the impact of higher dental staffing expenses

Oct. 25, 2022
At a time when dental practices are facing an uphill battle when it comes to finding and keeping employees, staffing expenses come into play. Here's how to lessen the blow to your bottom line.

This is a column about increasing practice production, so how does the ever-increasing expense of dental staffing fit in? Most dental practices are facing a significant challenge finding and keeping team members and paying more as a result. In the language of economists, this would be referred to as a “structural” change, which means it’s not going away anytime soon. The higher cost of dental staffing is now part of the fabric of the profession. Please don’t shoot the messenger.

More "Practice Production, Prioritized": 

From the perspective of increasing practice production, more money invested in team member compensation now needs to translate into increased levels of performance. Dental staff will not automatically perform at a higher level upon receiving more compensation. Without the appropriate mindset and plan, practices will end up paying more for the same performance. In fact, this is currently happening in many practices.

One way to offset higher staff compensation costs is for the practice to identify ways to train the team to perform more efficiently. For example, dental assistants can increase practice production by allowing doctors more time to complete procedures and increase the number of patients seen each day.

Create higher staff performance

To maximize production, dentists should work a minimum of two treatment rooms, both producing at equal levels. (Don’t be fooled into thinking that having one main room and an overflow room is the same as having a properly designed accelerated schedule. It’s not.) Dental assistants are the key to an accelerated schedule. They need to be trained to conduct every procedure that they are legally allowed to perform, which lets the doctor focus on those diagnostic and treatment procedures that only doctors are legally allowed to perform. That’s how increasing the skill set of your assistants will enable your practice to increase total production.

The bottom line is that the best way to compensate for the higher staffing costs our profession is facing is to create higher staff performance. Practices that simply pay more and don’t expect enhanced performance will likely suffer erosion of practice profitability as overhead rises, but production and revenue do not keep pace. Start thinking today about what skill sets you can begin adding to your dental assistants.

Higher staff compensation and other inflationary pressures are impacting practice profitability. Increasing practice production through staff training, more efficient scheduling, and better use of doctor time for increased production will offset higher costs and if done properly, will increase practice profitability every year. 

Editor's note: This article appeared in the October 2022 print edition of Dental Economics magazine. Dentists in North America are eligible for a complimentary print subscription. Sign up here.

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