Building and retaining teams: The big challenge for 5 dental leaders

Recruiting top talent in the dental industry can be difficult, but holding onto the best staff members is a challenge in and of itself, especially in the current landscape of staffing in the dental industry.

The leaders featured in this article are all speaking at Becker's 2024 dental conferences. This includes our Spring Future of Dentistry Roundtable, which is set for June 19-21 at the Swissotel in Chicago, and our Fall Future of Dentistry Roundtable, which is set for Oct. 30-Nov. 1 at the Hyatt Regency in Chicago.

If you work at a DSO or dental practice and would like to be considered as a speaker, contact Randi Haseman at

As part of an ongoing series, Becker's is talking to healthcare leaders who will speak at our roundtables. The following are answers from our speakers at the events.

Note: Responses were lightly edited for clarity and length.

Question: What is the biggest challenge dentists, DSOs and/or dental practices are facing today?

Matt Carlston, DMD. Dentist at Comfort Dental (Lakewood, Colo.): There are several significant challenges facing dentists, DSOs and dental practices today. The first is the proper training of new dentists, as many graduating dentists are not receiving the clinical experience that past graduates have experienced. Dental schools are attempting to train more young dentists than ever before. They do the best that they can, but the burden of this training falls on us as experienced practitioners. By providing an environment where they will receive proper training, we increase the likelihood that we will be able to retain them and they won't begin looking for other opportunities. The second is retention of doctors. In today's landscape it appears that these new dentists are treated too much as an asset and that they are easily replaceable with the next batch of dental school graduates. We need to educate them and teach them how we can help them in becoming debt free and help them grow in aspects of the business side of dentistry as well as the clinical side of dentistry.

Haim Haviv. Founder and CEO of Hudson Dental (New York City): Dental is similar to a sports team and hence key challenges are attraction and retention of top talent. As far as attraction is concerned, we are happy to heavily invest in top talent while aligning incentives with clear desired outcomes. In turn, that makes retention easier, since management is already very involved, invested in the team's professional growth, and constantly listening to our team so we know where we stand.    

A.J. Peak. CEO of Peak Dental Services (Colorado Springs, Colo.): Building a distinctive culture while navigating wage inflation despite not always receiving proportionate payer increases.

Joe Rubis, DDS. Associate Dentist of Great Lakes Dental Partners (Chicago): The biggest challenge will always be creating and maintaining great teams to support the doctors. The idea that the grass is always greener on the other side will always exist.

Dawn Smith, PhD. Dental Hygiene Department Chair of Howard University (Washington, D.C.): I feel the biggest challenge faced by dental practices revolves around staffing. Recruitment, retention, training, and a workplace where each employee can thrive. We are still dealing with staffing issues post-pandemic, and mental health is a concern. Finding a synergistic fit between office culture and employee needs can be beneficial to the practice and most of all to the patients receiving comprehensive care.

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