2 big hurdles facing dental practices in 2024

Staffing shortages and inflation are two of the biggest challenges facing dental practices and DSOs this year.

Here is how the two issues are affecting practices: 

Staffing shortages 

Consulting firm McKinsey & Co. projects that the U.S. will be short more than 36,000 dental professionals by 2031. There is already a shortage of more than 10,000 dentists in the country, according to the Health Resources and Services Administration.

Dental hygienists and dental assistants have continued to be the most challenging roles to recruit. Only two-thirds of practices feel they have an adequate number of hygienists and assistants, according to data from the American Dental Association. 

While some dental offices have seen improvements in staffing recruitment and retention, some dentists expect staffing challenges to continue in 2024.

"Unfortunately, I think that the shortages will continue in 2024 and this will make it very important to work with current staff to make sure they are happy and don’t want to leave for greener pastures," Glenn Maron, DDS, told Becker's. "The creation of more assisting programs throughout the country that truly train the assistants so that they are ready to join a team and be productive staff members [will also help alleviate shortages.]"

Rising costs

Economic challenges have made it hard for dental practices to stay afloat and have led DSOs to rethink their expansion strategies for 2024. 

Dental practices are seeing costs increase in several areas, including supplies, materials and staff wages.

"Everything is increasing. We thought once the pandemic normalized, it would provide a respite from the increased costs in supply chain issues and inflation, but that hasn't been the case," Pasha Javaheri Saatchi, DMD, told Becker's. "Payroll has also increased tremendously. The widespread staffing issues that have plagued dental offices instilled a fear in me. I was happy with my staff and with pay transparency becoming much more prevalent. I had to offer very competitive wages to keep them."

Imagen Dental Partners Chief Development Officer Josh Davis told Becker's that DSOs could slow down their growth or reorganize their businesses as macroeconomic challenges continue. 

"[DSOs] really have to be able to understand the levers in the business, the cost structure of the business and stick to the value proposition that they present and what they can actually deliver," Mr. Davis said. "[Some DSOs] promised a lot over the last few years with the expectation that they were going to put the services and the support in places they go. Many have had to slow down on the acquisition side and start to work on cobbling together the value proposition that they originally offered but now can't deliver on."

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