Voluntary workforce reduction of 3,300 dental hygienists since 2020: 7 new findings

As of August 2021, less than half of dental hygienists who left employment early in the pandemic returned to the workforce, according to research published in the February issue of The Journal of Dental Hygiene.

Researchers with the American Dental Association and American Dental Hygienists' Association examined data from web-based surveys on COVID-19-related health, infection control practices and personal protective equipment use. The surveys were administered monthly to 6,976 dental hygienists from September 2020 to August 2021.

Six other findings:

1. COVID-19 has exacerbated a voluntary reduction in the workforce by 3,300 dental hygienists (1.6 percent).

2. According to the study, 7.9 percent of respondents who had been employed in March 2020 weren't working six months later in September 2020. When the study concluded in August 2021, the number decreased to 4.9 percent.

3.A low COVID-19 infection rate (8.8 percent) was reported among dental hygienists, lower than the rate for the general U.S. population (11.7 percent), according to a Feb. 22 news release.

4. High overall COVID-19 vaccine acceptance (75.4 percent) was reported among hygienists at the end of August.

5. Patient face-masking and physical protections such as barriers or air filtration increased in use over time, then declined in spring 2021.

6. Screening patients before appointments, checking patient temperatures before treatment, checking staff temperatures at shift start, disinfecting frequently touched surfaces and encouraging distance between patients were reported by more than 85 percent of respondents until March 2021, at which point significant decreases were observed. 

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