Dental employment remains stagnant despite pandemic improvement

Workforce recovery in the dental industry is slow despite COVID-19 cases and restrictions improving, according to new data from the American Dental Association's Health Policy Institute. 

The lack of recovery is driven by an increase in dentist retirement and dental hygienists leaving the workforce, the ADA said April 10. 

Dental offices lost 1,500 jobs from February to March, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. In a March ADA survey, 64.8 percent of dental practices said they were recruiting dental hygienists and 84.5 percent were recruiting dentists. Of those respondents, 91.5 percent and 73.4 percent indicated recruitment of dental hygienists and dentists was extremely or very challenging, respectively.

Dental hygienists have cited their reasons for leaving the industry as workplace safety concerns, the inability to find sufficient childcare and feeling underpaid. In 2021, dental hygienists made an average of $81,360 in annual compensation, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Dentists' retirement has reached new heights, with 6,641 dentists over age 55 leaving the workforce in 2021, compared to 4,785 in 2017. However, the number of dentists entering the workforce is higher, with the supply of dentists expected to increase through 2040.

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