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Temp Based Dental Apps

Dental staffing apps: HR considerations of a growing staffing shortage solution

Sept. 8, 2023
The staffing shortages have led enterprising companies to come up with hiring solutions, including app-based temp services. Here are the HR considerations that go along with that.

The ongoing staffing shortages in dentistry, along with enterprising companies, are introducing app-based temp services for dental assistants, hygienists, front-office staff, and associates. Unlike traditional temp agencies, these companies have a bigger footprint. Via their app, they act as the intermediary between dental offices and available workers, which could be nationwide. Since they’re becoming more popular and are expanding, we want to share some HR considerations. 


Like other sharing-economy platforms, availability is commensurate with population size. Practices in small towns may struggle to find workers, while offices in large cities may have hundreds of workers to choose from. 

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Vetting of workers varies, so it’s important to ensure your due diligence for someone to work in your practice. Most apps do basic identity verification and license/certification checks based on the appropriate state. There is variation in who performs criminal background checks, how extensive it is, and what’s checked. As a dental practitioner, remember that it’s ultimately your responsibility to ensure all workers have the appropriate credentials. 


As with other platforms, there’s a dual-review process: workers give your practice a rating, and you give the worker a rating. If a worker or practice’s rating falls below a certain level, they’re excluded from the app. This ensures everyone stays on their best behavior. 

W-2 employee versus 1099 contractor

This topic has led to litigation with Uber and other companies. Is a temp considered a W-2 employee or a 1099 contractor? In a traditional temp agency, workers are employees of the agency, the agency charges a fee to the practice, and the workers are not employees of the practice. However, these new app companies position themselves as just a platform for linking employers and workers. 

The IRS, as well as other federal and state law, has criteria for determining whether a true contractor relationship exists. Details include who does scheduling, who supplies tools, whether the worker has their own business, whether the worker performs the same job for multiple employers, whether the worker is performing a job that other W-2 employees already perform, and more. This is not a clear line-in-the-sand evaluation; you need to lay out the details and then make a judgment call in each individual situation

When comparing each temp app and how the classification works, you'll note significant differences between them. As always, the safest approach is W-2 employee classification. While this is not the most convenient approach, it eliminates the risk of misclassification liability. 


Depending on the worker’s classification, unemployment, worker’s compensation, and malpractice insurance may be in play. If the worker is a W-2 employee, they fall under the practice’s insurance plans. If the worker is treated as a 1099 contractor, then most of these insurances would not apply. Ask about these details before bringing in a temp.

Regular hiring

What about filling a “permanent” position in your office? Each app approaches this differently. Some act as just a job board, such as Indeed. Workers and employers can find and agree to work together on an ongoing basis, without a placement or finder’s fee. Other apps function like a temp agency and charge the practice a fee. 

Money transfer

Some temp apps allow paying the worker directly, while others require or offer the option of paying within the app. 

If the worker has 1099 contractor status and is paid via the app, the business name on the 1099 is the temp company’s name, not the worker. This might appear to insulate the practice from liability; however, if the IRS or state labor board were to act, the practice could potentially be included in the investigation process since they received the actual benefit of the work. This represents a new compliance gray area. 

Do your reasearch

Temp apps are something to consider. They can also support the transition from temp to regular employment. Based on the app, your state, utilization, and risk tolerance, these may prove to be helpful. Do your research and ensure you have your compliance bases covered. Remember that you’re being reviewed, too! Pay attention to your office culture, employee experience, pay and benefits, employee engagement, workplace appreciation, and everything else that makes your office an amazing place to work.

Editor's note: This article appeared in the September 2023 print edition of Dental Economics magazine. Dentists in North America are eligible for a complimentary print subscription. Sign up here.

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