Wisconsin faces dental hygienist shortage: 4 things to know

Wisconsin is one of many states in the U.S. facing a shortage of dental hygienists brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic, TMJ4, an NBC affiliate, reported Sept. 20.

A May poll from the American Dental Association shows more than 80 percent of hiring dentists are experiencing recruitment challenges for several positions, including dental hygienists, dental assistants and administrative staff. A September 2020 survey by the American Dental Hygienists’ Association and the ADA's Health Policy Institute found that nearly 8 percent of hygienists who were employed in March 2020 had left the workforce. Reasons cited for leaving their positions included COVID-19 concerns, child care challenges, no longer wanting to work in the profession and retirement.

Here are four things to know about the state's shortage:

  1. Eyad Bittar, DDS, with the Avenue Dental Group in Menomonee Falls, told TMJ4 that dental hygienists at the practice who were of retirement age decided to leave. Existing staff have taken extra shifts and duties to accommodate, and the practice's hygienists who were part-time recently entered full-time positions.
  2. Dr. Bittar said he knows other dentists who have been looking to fill dental hygienist positions for more than a year who have not been successful.
  3. Paula Crum, DDS, president of the Wisconsin Dental Association, said there is not a lack of interest in the field, but a lack of programs in the state. Of the 16 schools within the Wisconsin Technical College System, only five have a dental hygiene program.
  4. Dr. Crum wrote a letter to the technical college system's president asking for help addressing the workforce shortage.

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