Leaders weigh in on the biggest challenges facing the dental industry

Ten leaders of the dental industry spoke about the biggest challenges they are facing today and how they could impact the future. 

Each leader answered: “What are the top challenges facing your dental practice?”

Editor's note: Responses were lightly edited for clarity and length.

Jonathan Greene, DDS. Owner of Greene Dental Group (Norwich, Conn.): These are my biggest challenges from greatest to least: Ease of finding qualified, caring employees, feeling the squeeze of third party payer limitations, increased cost of providing care in supplies and payroll and availability of supplies for patient care because there are many delays.

Daniel Kazachkov, DMD. Owner of Dental Arts of Westwood (Mass.): Finding quality staff especially for the long term, especially ones that can see a single office career and grow with us. The pandemic did help unite us.

Randy Jones, DMD. Lowcountry Dental Associates (Johns Island, S.C.): The top challenge is finding qualified, experienced, job-oriented team members and keeping them once they join the team is the second biggest challenge. If you have a great team then all other challenges become small hiccups!

Kamiti Harden, DDS. Owner of Simply Children’s Dentistry (Savannah, Ga.): The top challenge is finding employees that have good work ethics. 

David Keller, DDS. Owner of Granite Dental (Vancouver, Wash.): The greatest challenge facing my dental practice currently is uncertainty. So many bedrocks of our profession have been undermined in the past years: dentistry labeled as "non-essential," so many people not wanting to work, inflation and rising prices and a flood of misinformation surrounding COVID. There are so many forces completely out of our control that are increasing the fear and mistrust of patients in our practice and across the country.

Daniel Benson, DDS. Dental Director of Dr. Benson and Associates (Wyandotte, Mich.): The top challenges are staffing. Future increase in staffing costs will reduce margins with slower reimbursement increases.

Phillip Isaacman, DDS. Owner of Bluff City Dental (Memphis, Tenn.): The top challenge facing our practice today is handling our growth. We keep getting new patients but I’m not creating any new time. How do we get to a place where we can make money without having to rely on my hands, my eyes, and my brain for everything? We’re busy bringing and empowering new people because as the great entrepreneur and rapper Young Dolph expressed on this very topic, I put my trust in the mob! 

Gaurav Agarwal, DDS. Valley Pediatric Dentistry (Winchester, Va.): Currently my top challenge has been inflation and staff retention. The cost of doing business and treating patients has gone up tremendously and the insurance reimbursement is still what it was 15 years ago. Staffing has always been the biggest stressor for any dental practice. 

Sathish Chari, DDS. Owner of Chari Family Dentistry (Scottsdale, Ariz.): The biggest challenge for dentistry, I believe, is access for both the patient and the provider. Here's one example of many: If you take it from the average patient's perspective, you have the following. They will need about $2,000 of ongoing dental treatment every year. This includes cleanings, filings, maybe a crown on the average per year, some way more and some less. In order to get the treatment, most will need to pay it out of pocket as the average person does not have dental insurance coverage. If so, it is limited to $1,000/year, which means that they will need to pay the rest out of pocket. With ongoing costs of living, dental treatment has a low priority on the needs/wants index. This means that the average person won't pursue ongoing treatment until it forces him/her to get such care. At that point, it usually means a high cost, creating another set of problems. 

Ilya Zak, DDS. Owner of Zak Dental (Los Angeles): Right now having staffing shortages is the No. 1 issue we face. Hygienists have not come back entirely and dental assistants are difficult to staff as well. We are engaging in training and recruiting much more than we were prior to the pandemic.

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