Dental Labour Shortage

Our previous blog post discussed the Canadian dental labour shortage and identified some rationales as to why there is a labour shortage in dentistry.

In the first post, we identified that Dentistry requires a high level of performance expectations from those working in the industry.

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.


In essence, then the question is how to remove the stress, fear, and lack of support so dental professionals can go home at the end of the day not feeling burnt out?

Regaining balance in this dental ghost town requires a confrontation.

Who are we confronting? The person in the mirror!

Dental professionals need to ask themselves what needs to change.

There are two angles a dental professional can examine to improve the dental labour shortage issue: internally and externally.

Both come with unique characteristics.


Solving the Dental Labour Shortage Internally

Are dental professionals happy with themselves as professionals?

How can they assess this? Or better yet, have they taken the time to assess this?

Every dental professional should take the time to self-reflect.

Self-reflection is a means of measurement.

Dental professionals measure themselves to the regulatory body standards of practice.


A self-assessment goes a long way to address needs and set goals towards enhancements.

The end goal of a self-assessment is to make sure that a dental professional is meeting the body of standards.

If a dental professional is not meeting standards, then they should be setting goals and making changes to meet the standards.

RELATED: USA Dental Labour Shortage Overview

Confirmation of knowledge, gaining new knowledge, and meeting goals set helps to remove the stress and fear that are not supportive of the high-performance levels that dental professionals are expected to operate at.

Internally, removing that stress and fear makes a dental professional feel great!

It’s a pat-on-the-back moment that confirms they are doing a great job.

They sought out to learn something new, achieve a goal, and implement that knowledge into client care.

Nobody gives them a trophy for self-reflection though.


They must host their own celebration gala to remember how amazing they are.

They must look at themselves in the mirror and remember all of their accomplishments and validate their own awesomeness.

Knowledge brings change and change brings more knowledge, a good vicious circle that creates that little spark that makes dental professionals feel rejuvenated and re-confirm their love for dentistry.


Solving the Dental Labour Shortage Externally

I often quote to students “Don’t let your environment dictate who you are”.

When a dental professional’s work environment fosters the bad stress and fear that leads to burnout in the dental industry, can they try to bring education to at least parallel some common ground?

Is it possible to foster a work environment where everyone shares the same mission and vision within a solid leadership?


This type of teamwork reduces the stress and fear of falling short and struggling to meet the basic standards of practice.

If a dental professional is feeling burnt out because of their work environment, a simple conversation with their team is a great first step in creating a positive and supportive work environment that everyone can thrive in.

If their current work environment is dictating who they are and dulling their sparkle day after day, maybe it’s time for a change.

Some will view leaving an unhealthy and stressful work environment as a sort of failure or giving up because they couldn’t make it work.


There is positive movement in the dental industry to create supportive and team-focused work environments.

Dental professionals recognizing the importance of working in a positive and supportive work environment themselves is not a failure.

That is growth.

Dental professionals seeking employment in dental offices that they can thrive in will not only benefit them, but it will benefit their patients as well.


Solutions To Solve the Dental Labour Shortage

  • Dental professionals addressing needs and setting goals towards enhancements.
  • Dental professionals celebrating their own accomplishments.
  • Dental professionals sharing education and conversations that help foster a positive and supportive work environment.
  • Remember: If the best solution is that a dental professional walk away, it's not defeat, it’s professional growth.


Problem solving the labour shortage in dentistry requires a good hard look internally and externally.

An internal and external assessment can work wonders to regain balance and offer a new level of energy.

Dental professionals deserve more than a quick glance in the mirror.

They also need to remind the reflection they see how far they have come and the wonders they deliver every single day fighting the evil gingivitis, especially with layer upon layer of PPE.


In analyzing their work environment, dental professionals may be surprised that a simple conversation is all that is needed to establish a shared mission and vision.

If the best solution is that they walk away from their current dental office to a new one, it’s not defeat or failure.

It’s professional growth.

As the dental industry recognizes the importance and benefit of fostering professional environments where dental professionals can thrive, there are some wonderful dental offices out there that dental professionals can certainly call their work family and function in a balanced state.

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.