The Biz of Dental Practice

Desperately Seeking Dental Team Members

October 17, 2021

It seems like only yesterday that hiring dental staff was like shooting fish in a barrel – only non violent, of course. šŸ˜€

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My, my, how times have changed.

*I wrote this article near the end of 2019. Aww, we had such innocence back then, in the Before Times, didn’t we? The info is still completely relevant – only worse. lol – that’s a nervous laugh. What I would add today to this article is that is more important than EVER to focus your energy on becoming a good employer and creating an awesome place to work. Throw down a comment after you give this a read, tell me what your experience has been.

Time to dive in ?

It seems like just yesterday that it was as simple as posting an ad or going through an agency and within 24 hours, like magic, the resumes would start rolling in leaving you with the difficult decision of which qualified candidate to hire.

In healthcare, staffing shortages are disruptive events with the potential to affect organizationsā€™ revenue streams and their ability to deliver quality care to patients.

dental staffing shortage 2021
Happy dental office staff increase practice financial stability.

In 2018,  a task force research findings from the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) determined the entire country is short more than 152,000 dental health care workers with only one state (Nebraska) not currently experiencing this shortage.  California, New York and Florida, respectively, are the experiencing the highest dental staffing shortages. 

More worrying, the HRSA expects this gulf to widen in the coming years, with the projected demand for dental care outpacing the projected supply of dental health care workers by 9 percent between now and the year 2025. 

The study found that the top three most significant factors in the dental health care worker shortage is:

  1. A rapidly increasing aging population who requires greater care
  2. Greater numbers of employment (translating into more people with dental benefits) 
  3. ā€œSpill-overā€ from the medical practitioners –  a shift within both the medical community and dental community to a ā€œmedical approachā€ to dentistry (overall health depends on dental health) increasing the patient referral to dentists from physicians and nurse practitioners – who are experiencing severe shortages themselves and now motivated to share the healthcare burden

Other factors include:

  1. Population growth
  2. More middle-aged people are keeping their natural teeth are fueling a demand for dental services
  3. High numbers of patients returning to regular dental care after long periods of no dental care (financial crisis 2007 – 2008)
  4. Recovered economy motivating patients to seek ā€œelectiveā€ dental care such as cosmetic and orthodontic treatment. 

The dentistry staffing shortage is severely affecting already underserved communities and only half of all other areas are just barely meeting coverage guidelines.  Some dental businesses that are struggling to maintain dentistry staffing levels are opting to lean on technology and investing in education to increase the skills of dental hygienists and assistants to better utilize them.

The shortage is projected to continue until at least 2025 and as the dentistry staffing shortage worsens, finding a dental auxiliaries, hygienists and locum tenens dentists to meet a spike in patient demand will become exceedingly difficult to do in a cost-efficient and timely manner.  Difficulties finding staff to fill in on unexpected absences or during a staff position openings may cause dental practices and organizations to begin to turn away patients. 

We are now faced with a significant shortage of Dental Auxiliaries and just meeting the supply guidelines for Hygienists.

As of October 18, 2019, in California the average time-to-hire when filling a dental job vacancy and dental team salary averages are..

  • RDH: 2 months (National average salary 79.009, California median salary 100,745)
  • DDS: 2 months (National average salary 154,036, California median salary 165,472)
  • DA: 3 months (National average salary 30,500, California median salary 41,393)
  • Receptionist: 2 months (National average salary 34,363, location does not affect)
  • RDA: 3 months (National average salary 37,268, California median 43,278)
  • RDAEF: 11 months (National average salary 44,457 California median salary 69,000)
  • Treatment Coordinator: 3.5 months (National average salary 41,500, California median 56, 763)
  • Office Manager: 4 months (National average salary 51,022, California median 75,259)

With 3 decades of experience in dentistry, my best advice to those who are looking for a dental assistant, dental hygienist, dental office manager or dental associate..

  • Invest in the team members you have. Too many dentists fail to engender a spirit of meaningful employment in their office. Dental Team professional development is the cost of doing business. You lose far more money with average staff, staff turn over, lack of morale. Get your credit card out, Dr.
  • “What if I invest in my dental team and they leave?” Yeah. Well, what if they don’t?
  • It doesn’t matter how high your salaries are – it matters what value you get from it – and that’s on you.

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