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DentistryIQThe Dental Hygienist Shortage: Will Dentistry Ever Look the Same?

A number of causes have contributed to a persistent, unheard-of scarcity in dental workers. Amanda Hill shares suggestions for practices to attract and retain personnel while also pondering whether the industry will recover.

The dental industry is at a critical juncture, grappling with a staffing shortage that has far-reaching implications for patient care and practice sustainability. This crisis has been exacerbated by the pandemic, shifting workforce expectations, and a changing landscape in dental employment. This article explores the factors contributing to the shortage and offers actionable insights for dental practices to adapt and thrive.

HCN Medical Memo
For the dental community, the staffing crisis is not just a logistical challenge but a pivotal moment to redefine the industry. This is an opportunity to adapt to the changing workforce landscape, invest in team building, and emphasize the role of dentistry in overall healthcare. By doing so, practices can not only attract and retain talent but also elevate the standard of care they provide to patients.

Key Points:
  • Staffing Shortage Impact: Patients are experiencing longer wait times for appointments, and dental practices are competing for the same pool of employees.
  • Pandemic Aftermath: Many dental assistants and hygienists did not return to work post-pandemic due to concerns about infection, family care, and incompatible practice standards.
  • Changing Landscape: The workforce is increasingly drawn to Dental Service Organizations (DSOs) or alternative careers, seeking traditional benefits and work-life balance.
  • Role as Health-Care Providers: Dentistry has the opportunity to reposition itself as an essential part of healthcare, emphasizing the importance of oral health in overall well-being.
  • Perspectives from Dentists: Many dental professionals stress the importance of a positive work environment and continued education as key motivators for staff retention.

Recent data from the ADA HPI’s Economic Outlook and Emerging Issues in Dentistry shows that 94.5% of dentists find recruiting a hygienist extremely or very challenging.

Additional Points:
  • Financial Incentives Not Enough: Despite 35% of dentists giving 4%–6% raises, recruiting remains a challenge.
  • Team Building and Culture: 40% of hygienists consider a positive work environment as a top motivator for job change, according to the 2023 Salary Survey Report from RDH magazine and DentalPost.
  • Investment in Quality Care: Providing top-notch care requires investment in continuous education, proper equipment, and up-to-date technology.

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