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Challenges recruiting for dental hygienist, assistant roles continue

July 6, 2023
Results from a new poll indicate that recruitment difficulties for hygienists and assistants continue in a similar pattern as last summer.
Elizabeth S. Leaver, Digital content manager

An ongoing poll of dentists indicates similar difficulties recruiting for hygienists and assistants as was indicated a year ago, with four of five dentists in this year’s poll saying they’ve given pay raises for those roles.

Results from June’s Economic Outlook and Emerging Issues in Dentistry, a tracking poll that the ADA Health Policy Institute (HPI) started in January 2022, showed that a third of dentists polled are actively recruiting dental hygienists and assistants. The newest poll, conducted the week of June 13, continued a similar pattern as in June 2022, with a somewhat higher percentage of dentists who said they were recruiting for hygienists and assistants indicating that doing so was “extremely challenging” or “very challenging.”

Nearly all the dentists recruiting for a hygienist—94.5%—indicated that filling that role is “extremely challenging” or “very challenging,” up from 92.4% a year ago. Those percentages for dental assistants are remained steady from June 2022 to 2023, at 84% and 83.7% respectively.

Other June 2023 poll results

Pay raises and benefits: Some 35% of dentists gave a 4% to 6% percent raise to dental hygienists; 41% increased pay by the same amount for dental assistants. Some 9 in 10 dentists report they offer paid vacation, paid holidays, and dental benefits to their employees; less than half offer health insurance.

Appointment schedules: 81.3% of respondents indicated patient no-shows or cancellations under 24 hours as the factor preventing their appointment schedule from reaching 100% in the previous week. That noted, dentists’ appointment schedules were 88% full in June 2023, the highest point since March 2022.

Patient wait times: Appointment wait times for new patients and patients of record went up slightly, with the average patient of record waiting 12.2 business days for an appointment, excluding emergencies. New patients wanting an initial appointment waited an average of 22.7 days in June. For both new and existing patients, wait times have steadily increased since the beginning of 2023.

Access the full HPI report

About the Author

Elizabeth S. Leaver | Digital content manager

Elizabeth S. Leaver was the digital content manager for Endeavor Business Media's dental group from 2021-2024. She has a degree in journalism from Northeastern University in Boston and many years of experience working in niche industries specializing in creating content, editing, content marketing, and publishing digital and magazine content. She lives in the Boston area.