The dental staffing shortage: Updates, insights, and strategies for getting through it

Feb. 6, 2023
It's been a long road to recovery for dentistry, and the tough times aren't over yet. But these insights from some of our best content on dental staffing can help you move forward.

It’s no secret that dentistry has been dealing with an unprecedented staffing shortage for the past several years, and its effect has been widespread: “For the first time in dental history,” said Roger Levin, “we are noting numerous practices that have lower production and revenue because they cannot properly staff or hire skilled staff members.”

And the challenges seem to be continuing. December 2022 data from the American Dental Association’s Health Policy Institute (HPI) indicates that more than a third of polled practices are recruiting for dental hygienists and dental assistants, with some 79% of those recruiting for hygienists saying it’s been “extremely challenging.”

But there are ways practice owners and other dental professionals are getting through the crisis, and many have shared their insights. Read on for our top articles on dental staffing.

Where has the dental team gone?

Despite dental practices across the country closing their offices and sending their teams home almost overnight at the start of the pandemic, at the end of October 2021, dentistry boasted employment levels that exceeded what they were prepandemic—yet practices found themselves short-staffed, and still do. HPI experts provide an insightful snapshot of the situation as it was a year ago (January 2022), as well as steps for weathering the shortage.

What’s next for dentistry’s recovery?

The number one reason people are leaving their jobs

Just as concerning as the labor shortage itself, says author Christi Bintliff, is that “41% of those employed, mostly in professional positions such as health care and dental, are actively looking for another job.” But, she says, “contrary to popular belief, compensation is not the number one reason that employees leave.” What is?

The big quit: Staffing struggles during the pandemic and beyond

Your employees are watching

“It’s no secret that the COVID-19 pandemic has shifted the dental industry and that it is facing a severe workforce shortage,” says author Don Gallo, who offers a plan of action for practices that involves working to retain the staff you do have: “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.”

The Great Resignation: Where it’s coming and how to avoid it

Solidify and stabilize your current team

Indeed, says Roger Levin, to survive the staffing crisis, it’s essential to take immediate action to solidify and stabilize your current team, which is taking on more than ever: “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,” notes Levin.

Practice production, prioritized: The dental staffing crisis

Fine-tune basic efficiencies

Keeping a practice going during times that are unprecedented in terms of the economy and staffing can also sometimes come down to working on some basic efficiencies such as scheduling smarter, enhancing communication and outreach, recognizing employee burnout, and more.

5 ways to increase efficiencies

What really makes people stay?

The pandemic and economy only account for so much of the dental staffing shortage, says author JoAn Majors, who asserts that it’s actually something else—4 basic needs that you have to keep in balance—at the “core of the staffing stress today.”

4 keys to a staff that stays

More strategies for retention and hiring...

Author David Harris also offers suggestions—some fairly quick, some longer-term—for vetting applicants, attracting talent, and keeping staff happy during this trying time.

Navigating the dental labor shortage

...and a simple fix (with a bonus)

HR experts Rebecca Boartfield and Tim Twigg maintain that while “money could fix some of the [staffing and retention] problems in the short term, now is the time to play the long game”: show your appreciation. Bonus: By giving to your employees and your coworkers, you not only take a crucial step in retaining staff: you become happier and more fulfilled.

Appreciation: A key to getting through the labor shortage

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