Staffing, supply, Medicare & more: 10 dental insights from 2021

Becker's spoke to several dental professionals this year to gain insight into issues affecting the industry, including the COVID-19 pandemic, rising supply costs and workforce shortages.

Here are 10 insights:

How 3 dentists chose where to practice
Scott Terry, DDS (North Vernon, Ind.)
: I considered the actual need in the area for another practitioner. The practice I joined was rapidly growing. Most of my colleagues wanted to stay in a more urban setting. There was a greater opportunity in a more rural practice.

3 dentists on the biggest opportunities in dentistry
Greg Pyle, DDS. University Avenue Dental (Muncie, Ind.)
: The biggest opportunities truly lie in being an integral part in the healthcare of our patients. Dentists are the most accessible healthcare providers that our patients will see, and it's our duty to be their leader in recognizing issues with systems such as airway, sleep, acid control, infection control and growth/development. I truly enjoy collaborating with and being a part of my patients' medical team!

How 4 leaders are overcoming dental staffing, supply chain and RCM issues
Priyanki Amroliwala. Senior Manager of Talent Acquisition at 42 North Dental (Waltham, Mass.)
: Staffing challenges are severe. Everyone is struggling with dental hygienist staffing. We have created a flex team that's essentially our own little temporary agency with our own hygienists. These are hygienists who can pick up a couple of hours or shifts here and there. We are actively using and adding to that list. Whenever we have a hygiene need, we just reach out to people on that list. It's cheaper than hiring from another agency and a bit faster — these people are already on our payroll, employed by us.

COVID-19 vaccination mandates for healthcare providers: 7 dentists weigh in
David Chei, DMD. Arlington (Texas) Dental Associates
: I feel that the COVID-19 mandate is a positive development. Even if one may feel uneasy about getting vaccinated, and I really do understand this reluctance, scientific/medical evidence is overwhelming that it can and will save lives. Yes, I believe all healthcare providers should receive the COVID-19 vaccine since it will not only protect those providers who are vaccinated, [but] others that may come in contact with these providers.

Medicare dental expansion: What worries 2 dentists
Robert Trager, DDS (New York City)
: Anything the government gets involved in in the health professions usually is mismanaged, chaotic and poorly administered. Non health professionals are not consulted to set up the programs, fees and protocols. The DSOs will be the main providers since the fees will probably be too low for the independent dentists. I predict there will be much fraud and overbilling and delayed payments. Dental health is more essential than hearing and vision to be delayed until 2028. One doesn't develop cancer, diabetes and other health problems from difficult hearing and poor vision.

What 5 dentists do when hit with unexpected costs
Anthony Lombardi, DDS. Lombardi Dentistry (Morris, Ill.)
: Fortunately, our practice is very stable and highly productive. It would take a six-figure unexpected expense to alter the budget. However, I would simply draw from my line of credit and pay the expense so as not to alter the day-to-day financial responsibilities.

7 dentists share their best, worst decisions
James Vartanian, DDS. Vartanian Dental Group (Mission Viejo, Calif.)
: The best decision I made was to convert my practice into a group/multispecialty dental office. I am able to generate more revenue with less physical work, but with more management. The worst decision I made is that I didn’t do it soon enough. I would have been able to generate more revenue and goodwill if I had done it sooner.

7 dentists share their outlook on the industry
Kerry Bloom, DDS. The Dental Center (Houston)
: Dental practices are exploding. Every patient is back and bringing their friends. We are especially busy with emergencies. They all know how safe dental offices have always been and could not wait to get back for care. Unfortunately, many patients stayed away too long, and their problems have increased. Patients are now battling cracked teeth and gingivitis they never had in prior years.

Advice for emerging dental leaders: 7 industry leaders weigh in
Charles Bertolami, DDS. Dean of NYU College of Dentistry (New York City)
: It's important to recognize that in the past, dentistry was a "mom and pop" operation. In fact, that's one of the things that would attract people to dentistry. People wanted to be their own boss, work in their own practice in their community, and that was great. But that's not a model that ends up having a lot of impact on national and international public health policy. That model isn't going to be invited to the White House to discuss what oral health policy should be. … We need more people to populate positions in organized dentistry who are willing to speak up. … My recommendation would be to try to prepare for the future, and public health-oriented, would be to have public health orientation and be confident speaking in public forums.

What pandemic protocols will remain in dental offices? 4 dentists' plans
Elizabeth Goldman, DDS. Texas Redbud Dental (McKinney, Texas)
: We will definitely keep the face shields and surgical caps long-term. Our increased awareness of splatter and aerosol has made us appreciate the protection they provide. We also created a cute "prize board" for our young patients, where all the little rewards are individually bagged and clothespinned to a decorated foamcore board. It looks so much neater and is quicker than digging through a jar of prizes.

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