Ready, Set, Go: Overcoming the Dental Labor Shortage Roadblock

The pre-pandemic patients are getting scheduled, the office is ready with updated infection control policies, the dentist is anxious to return to business as usual. However, the roadblock to retaining or recruiting new dental team members remains exceptionally challenging. Dental offices are still struggling with a labor shortage of hygienists, assistants, and administrative staff. So, what is a dental office to do? What are some solutions to the current dental labor shortage roadblock?

Related: An Overview of the Labor Shortage in Dentistry

The shortage of dental team members is not a recent development. The difficulty of hiring hygienists and assistants existed before the COVID-19 pandemic. The dental labor shortage became increasingly evident as the pandemic created additional obstacles. Employees left the workforce due to personal health and safety concerns, balancing work and personal life, or early retirement opportunities for more senior providers.

Addressing the Dental Staffing Shortage

Prevention is a keyword in dentistry, and it should also be a keyword when addressing the dental staffing labor shortage. The best way to avoid a labor shortage is to be a good manager and prevent losing the valuable members of an existing dental team. Capitalize on taking an interest in the concerns and accomplishments of team members. Understand that with every staff member lost; a dental office loses office time, productivity, and income. A good manager is compassionate. They get to know and communicate with their team members. They should consider discussing not only the needs of the office but those of personnel. It is essential to make the practice appealing to the current staff or any potential new hires.

Some other ideas to avoid staffing issues in the dental industry are to offer flexible schedules or schedule complex procedures early in the day when most dental professionals are rested and prepared to begin a day. A solid, longer, fully booked scheduled day with a day off in between may be attractive to employee. Or providing employees with other incentives for a job well done. Making work less stressful and balanced is a preventive measure to increase employee retention, morale, and production.

Adequate compensation is another valuable component for the retention or recruitment of dental staff. Salary and wages are a significant expense in every dental practice but well worth the investment. Employees are standing strong in salary negotiations. Dental offices reviewing local and national employee compensation averages will help to make sure they are not outbid by another offering a more representative salary. Staff that feel appreciated and appropriately compensated tend to stay or accept offered positions.

4 Ways to Attract & Retain Talent in a Dental Practice
  • Implement good management to prevent losing the valuable team members.
  • Offer staff flexible scheduling.
  • Schedule complex procedures early in the day when staff is rested and feel more motivated.
  • Offer incentives for a job well done.
  • Offer representative compensation to help make sure that a dental office is not outbid.

How Do Dental Offices Let Everyone Know They Are Hiring?

How dental offices advertise open positions is just as important as how they attract and retain talent. Dental offices could be losing out on adding valuable team members by not advertising open positions correctly. But how does a dental office advertise open positions in a way that attracts the best candidates? Using the existing staff to spread the word of what a great office they work for is a great way to start. Offering a bonus for a team member that refers a qualified candidate, opening a social media account, or joining a professional social media networking site are great ways to search out qualified candidates. It is also a good idea to use additional job site platforms to announce new job postings seeking suitable applicants.

Dental staffing is continuing to be an ongoing struggle and will most certainly continue for the near future. Prevention of staff resignation is one way to avoid the necessity of seeking well-matched, competent applicants in a time of shortage. Staying flexible, compassionate, and ensuring a dental office is a great place to work can minimize the roadblock in returning to business as usual. When the time comes to hire, it’s important that dental offices are advertising open positions correctly to attract the best candidates.

Maryanne Ferree RDH, BS, PHDHP

Maryanne holds a Bachelor of Science with a focus in dental hygiene education from the College of General Studies at the University of Pittsburgh and maintains a license as a Public Health Dental Hygiene Practitioner. She has over 35 years of clinical experience. Maryanne is currently clinical faculty in the Department of Periodontics and Preventive Dentistry focusing her clinical teaching on Advanced Periodontal Instrumentation and is finishing her Public Health Master’s thesis on Infection Control in Dental Practices.