‘Now Hiring’ hanging sign on glass dental office door

For years, dentistry has had an oversaturation of dental professionals. There hasn’t been a dental labour shortage before now. Instead, job postings were few and far between and most jobs surfaced through word of mouth and were immediately filled. Currently, Canada is experiencing a significant labour shortage in dentistry. Dental practices have an abundance of job advertisements to choose from, but no one is applying. Dental professionals, where are you? Where did you go? Why is there a labour shortage in dentistry? The answer to what is causing the Canadian labour shortage in dentistry is simple, job stress, plus the added stress of the pandemic, and then that is piled high with a big helping of unhealthy fear!

Dental professionals that operate in a well-managed practice tend to implement change with ease. This type of office culture embraces new standards and protocols and in turn motivates the dental team to rise to the challenge and strive to that next level of best practice. For some dental professionals working in well-managed dental practices, change is an addiction. They thrive from tackling one element of change and then quickly look for the next fix. This works well enough in an office where there is support. This works well enough in an office where the team shares the same mission and vision within solid leadership. In this scenario, fear is a motivator to ensure the office is compliant or one step above compliance. This is good fear. This good fear nurtures an adrenaline rush that propels a dental professional to be excited about setting new goals and accomplishing them. This good fear is not the cause of the dental labour shortage issue in Canada.

One of the biggest contributing factors to the current Canadian labour shortage in dentistry is the pressure of working in a poorly managed dental office. The stress and fear that come from working in a poorly managed dental office paints a completely different picture when compared to working in a well-managed office. This stress and fear is not from the excitement and adrenaline rush from a ‘job well done.’ But rather the stress and fear of falling short and struggling to meet the basic standards of practice. This type of dynamic is a dental professional’s worst nightmare, especially when goals are trying to be set but never happen. This dental office dynamic leads to dental professionals losing hope which eventually leads to job dissatisfaction. Job dissatisfaction eventually leads to burnout. Those who work in the dental industry that are feeling burnt out tend to leave their position which contributes greatly to the labour shortage the dental industry is currently experiencing. The pandemic and the fear evoked from not having the necessary precautions for safety adds another grime layer to this mismanaged scenario.

What is Causing the Canadian Labor Shortage in Dentistry:
• Fear of falling short of standards because of poorly managed dental offices
• Stress and burnout from rising to the challenge of working in a global pandemic
• Fear evoked from not having the necessary personal protection equipment
• Poor work-life balance

All of this build-up of unhealthy fear caused by the fear of falling short of standards because of poorly managed dental offices, the fear evoked from not having the necessary personal protection equipment, and the stress and burnout from rising to the challenges of working in a global pandemic are the biggest contributors to the current dental labour shortage. Dentistry requires a high level of performance expectations from those working in the industry. Add to that the extra expectations of working to global pandemic standards. Stress and fear brought on from poorly managed dental practices are not supportive of these expectations. Nor does this stress and fear deliver a healthy work-life balance. At one point, in any profession, a decision needs to be made to rebalance the scales and remove the stress and fear, and sadly that may be accounting for the labour shortage in the dental industry.

Are there solutions to the current Canadian dental professional shortage? In a cup is half full approach there are viable and realistic solutions to problem solve the dental ghost town! We hope that fellow dental peers who have left the profession have done so on a temporary basis as dentistry wants you back! Stay tuned for the next blog article where we will dive deeper into solutions to the current labour shortage in the dental field.

Michelle Aubé (Simmonds) RDH, maxill Dental Hygiene Educator

Michelle is a Dental Hygiene Speaker, Consultant and Educator with over 21 years of experience as a RDH and 4 years as a CDA. She has written dental hygiene articles for CDHA’s OH Canada professional publication and continues to practice clinically and teaches both clinical dental hygiene and practice management at Fanshawe College and the University of Western Ontario. She has served on the Discipline Committee at Algonquin College and held the position of a CDHO Quality Assurance Assessor for 7 years.