Virginia dental practices experiencing dental hygienist, educator shortages

Dental practices in Virginia are facing scheduling backlogs due to a shortage of both dental hygienists and dental educators, according to a July 1 report by WAVY 10.

At Howell Dentistry in Suffolk, Va., the earliest available appointment for a routine cleaning is in February, a backlog of six months. 

Many hygienists left the industry during the COVID-19 pandemic and the profession has not fully regenerated. 

"During COVID, we did have a whole lot of hygienists leave the profession," said Dani Howell, DDS, of Howell Dentistry. "It's also a profession that over time has not regenerated itself quite as quickly."

Another cause of the hygienist shortage is the lack of dental hygiene educators available seats for dental hygiene programs. 

Virginia Peninsula Community College paused enrollment for its dental hygiene program, without any timeline for future application acceptance or enrollment dates. 

However, Old Dominion University in Norfolk, Va., was approved to expand its dental hygiene program from 42 seats to 48, making it possible for more individuals in Virginia to train as dental hygienists, the report said.

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