4 dentists' thoughts on staffing challenges

Dental practices have continued to struggle with hiring staff members, including dental hygienists and dental assistants, during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Here, four dentists discuss these hiring challenges and what they mean for dentistry:

Andy Droel, DDS. Droel Family Dentistry (Lino Lakes, Minn.): There is a pervasive and significant lack of available assistants and hygienists. Dentists and dental office owners cannot readily recruit and train more assistants; this is something that depends upon outside entities like colleges and vocational schools. Unfortunately, educational institutions are not expanding their programs nearly enough to address the situation, and I anticipate no apparent end to these shortages. 

Laurence Stone, DDS. Doylestown (Pa.) Dental Solutions: There are many reasons why dental hygienists may be leaving the workforce, including the COVID-19 pandemic, inadequate pay, difficult working conditions and the expansion of dental franchises, corporate practices and DSOs. Dental practices are experiencing difficulty in recruiting dental hygienists for some of the same reasons and, depending on your location, the inadequate number of dental hygiene training programs.

Jerry Popeck, DMD. Popeck Family Dentistry (Pennsville, N.J.): I believe at the moment [the biggest uncertainty] is whether the staffing shortage will ever end. It is very difficult to hire new staff. It's very competitive between offices. Hopefully this issue will abate at some later time.

William Simon, DMD. City Smiles and Sonrisa Urbana (Chicago): I'm a dentist who has a lot of appreciation for my team. I think that you might find that dentistry historically has not always positioned themselves that way. It took a long time for dental practices to get to a point where the team was recognized to be an integral part of the provision of the care. There are a number of hygienists out there that in some ways don't feel as if they are looked at by the practice owners as a contributor to the level that they might like to be looked at. In some cases, dental hygienists feel they are just a machine that's pumping out dental hygiene. There are still offices out there where the dentists are not utilizing dental hygienists, or perhaps they don't truly employ them to the extent that they could, in other words, expanding their functions and allowing them to give input into the way that the care is provided. And I think that would go a long way also toward making a dental hygiene career more attractive.

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