4 dental leaders discuss staffing, recruitment challenges

According to a May poll from the American Dental Association, 80 percent of hiring dentists are experiencing recruitment challenges for multiple positions, including dental hygienists and assistants, administrative staff, and associate dentists.

These challenges have led hiring dentists to try different methods to attract recruits, including raising pay.

Becker's spoke with four dentist leaders about staff shortages at their practices and their experiences recruiting talent.

Note: Responses have been lightly edited for clarity and length.

Barry Lyon, DDS. Dental Care Alliance (Sarasota, Fla.): Our organization is certainly challenged with staffing at this time, as are other DSOs and private practices. There are particular markets where we struggle to staff specific positions. For instance, recruiting for dental hygienists in Detroit, New Jersey, Northern Virginia, Western Massachusetts and Atlanta are all challenging geographies. We currently have 77 open hygiene positions within the 20 states where we have practices. Dental assistants have been challenging to come by in all of our markets from both a recruiting and retention perspective. We've found that dental assistants who accept our offers are receiving counter offers that we're not comfortable competing with. Specific markets where we're challenged for dental assistants are Massachusetts, South Florida, Indiana, New Jersey and Northern Virginia. We currently have 130 dental assistant positions within the DCA footprint.

It's a continuous focus on increasing the speed and efficiency of getting candidates in our practices and through the interview process. In this job market we need to be nimble, operate with a sense of urgency and understand that we may not find a perfect 10 out of 10 candidate but we can train to upskill our new hires. From a tactical perspective, we continue to leverage our current employee population for employee referrals, as well as relationships with institutions and training programs. We're continuously looking at alternative methods of sourcing for candidates, and we are offering welcome and stay bonuses in challenging employment markets.

Scott Ballard, DMD. Ballard Family Dentistry (Saginaw, Texas): Hygiene is the only position we are having a problem recruiting for. I own seven practices and am currently in need of five hygienists. The cause is twofold. COVID has caused a lot of hygienists to retire early. COVID unemployment benefits are also keeping many hygienists from reentering the workplace.

David Ramirez, DDS. David Ramirez, DDS (San Francisco): Yes, our office is experiencing a staff shortage, especially for a licensed RDA. The only thing to attract new employees is to increase the hourly sign-on bonus. However, current staff now wants raises. It's difficult to complete a new hire since typically the employee now goes back to their original boss and asks for a raise. We are being taken hostage at the mercy of dental assistants due to how many have left the field and sought other jobs and no longer view dental assisting as a long career. Times are changing.

Oussama Founas, DDS. Dentologie (Chicago): Our practice is experiencing a shortage of assistants at this time. We are looking for three to four full-time assistants. For all other positions, things have been much more manageable.

We've started using Indeed with help from their internal team to drive more eyes to our postings. We've also utilized our social media to drive people to our careers page. The Indeed postings with paid sponsorship have allowed for much more volume in candidates, but many of these candidates have been inconsistent in showing up for their interviews or canceling at the last minute. Social media has had moderate success with more quality candidates.

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