Dental industry continues to grapple with workforce shortages: 4 updates

The dental industry is still dealing with a shortage of providers exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic, particularly dental assistants and hygienists. 

A recent poll from the American Dental Association found that 34.9 percent of dentists were recruiting hygienists and 35.8 percent were recruiting dental assistants. About 80 percent of dentists described recruiting dental hygienists as "extremely challenging," while 57 percent described hiring dental assistants as "extremely challenging."

Here are four recent updates about how the shortages are affecting the industry: 

1. South Royalton, Vt.-based HealthHUB is unable to provide care at its mobile dental clinic because of a shortage of dental hygienists.

2. Central Penn College in Summerdale, Pa., is adding three dental practitioner programs to help fill workforce shortages in the state. The school will launch its expanded function dental assistant program in the spring and a dental assistant certificate program in the summer. It also plans to add a dental hygiene associate degree program in the fall.

3. Wisconsin dentists told CBS affiliate WDJT that more training programs are needed to grow the state's workforce and alleviate shortages, which are causing longer wait times for patients while dental practices see an uptick in emergency cases.

4. A report from the American Institute of Dental Public Health found that the U.S. dental workforce shrunk by 3 percent during the COVID-19 pandemic. Dental hygienists represent the largest attrition group and are the furthest from returning to full capacity. Dental assistants are projected to be one of the most in-demand professions over the next decade.

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