© calypsoArt | Dreamstime.com
Pay Decrease

Thursday Troubleshooter: Can dental hygienist do anything about pay cut since COVID?

Oct. 29, 2020
COVID has changed a lot of things for dental practices, including pay. But this hygienist is wondering why she has to take a pay cut and her coworkers are being paid the same salary since the office reopened.

This column is here to guide dental professionals with advice from the experts . . . because they’ve been there. Remember, you are not alone! Send your questions to [email protected]. Those who reach out will remain anonymous if their questions are used on DentistryIQ.

QUESTION: I have been a practicing dental hygienist for 19 years and have been full-time in a pedo office for the last seven years. We have one dentist, two hygienists, three assistants, and two front office people. We were closed for two months during the shutdown. When we reopened, we saw fewer patients and started back slowly.

Now the dentist has decided he likes seeing fewer patients and wants the hygienists to see fewer also, but this affects our commission. He said we’re seeing fewer patients and therefore we should take a pay cut, but he has only reduced pay for the hygienists. I asked if other employees are receiving less pay, since his reason is that we are seeing fewer patients and therefore, everyone should have less to do. He said no, only the hygienists had our pay cut because we make more than the other employees. An assistant no longer helps us with x-rays, so we have essentially lost an assistant as well as pay. Do you have any advice?

COVID has changed the way we see patients on many levels, and for many offices that includes seeing fewer patients in a day, and this equates to less office income. Are the hygienists and assistants both paid on commission, or just the hygienists? The reasoning behind being “paid more” does not resonate with me as an excuse to cut pay only to the hygienists, especially if everyone is paid on commission. Also, as being paid a percentage of revenue, is the dentist still paying you the same percentage, or has he cut the percent value of revenue? These are two very different things.

Did you lose an assistant because the dentist either let someone go or did the person choose not to return to work, causing everyone else to pick up the workload? If you are paid as an overall percentage of revenue and the revenue has decreased, I don’t believe you have room for argument. If the percentage value is decreased, then I would question this further. Consider your bottom line and if it is about the money or the environment, the slowdown of patients may be a temporary solution until the demand for dental care increases. If all else fails, ask to be paid hourly versus commission-based, therefore the number of patients you see will not affect your bottom line. I hope this helps!

To read previous Troubleshooters, visit DentistryIQ and search “Thursday Troubleshooter.” And remember! If you’re having problems in your dental practice, send your question and concerns to Troubleshooter for an expert to address. You’ll be helping others who are experiencing similar issues. Send inquiries to [email protected].