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Dental Workforce Shortage

In brief: Large dental professional shortage predicted

Oct. 17, 2023
Learn about a predicted shortage of thousands of DPs within 8 years; the factors that lead 4 of 5 OH professionals to report feeling burnout; and more.
Elizabeth S. Leaver, Digital content manager

Large shortage of dental professionals predicted

Becker’s reports that within eight years, the US could be short thousands of dental professionals. According to data extrapolated from McKinsey & Co., by 2031 there could be up to 36,000-plus vacancies for jobs in dentistry, owing to factors that include lasting effects of the pandemic, workplace demographic shifts, and changing care needs, as well as “multiple headwinds that threaten affordability, access, and industry economics.”

Six states start or expand Medicaid dental coverage

NBC reports that six states—Hawaii, Tennessee, Kentucky, Michigan, Maryland, and New Hampshire—were the latest to begin or expand their Medicaid dental coverage this year for adults, due to “an increasing understanding that oral health is inseparable from health care,” said New Hampshire Democratic Rep. Joe Schapiro, who was the prime sponsor of the expanded bill. “The amount of money spent on other health care problems that are related to oral health and the amount of money spent on emergency care when people can’t get any kind of preventive or restorative care is not only unfortunate for those people’s health but cost a tremendous amount of money.”

Dental insurance: an “overlooked stepchild”

Meanwhile, according to Vox, “In the realm of all things health care, dental exists as a sort of overlooked stepchild.” In reporting on the overall landscape of dental insurance, Vox quoted chief economist and vice president of the ADA Health Policy Institute (HPI) Marko Vujicic: “When you look at the dental insurance model, it doesn’t protect the patient from financial risk. It’s the opposite.” As such, studies show Americans with and without insurance forgo dental visits and treatments because of the costs.

4 out of 5 OH providers report burnout

Some 79% of oral health providers report experiencing professional burnout, with organizational stressors such as workplace shortages and challenges obtaining enough PPE listed as some of the top reasons. Becker’s drew from a report by the Oral Health Workforce Research Center that also noted, “Oral health clinicians more often reported chaotic work environment and lack of effective teamwork in their organization as primary contributors to burnout than other clinicians” but that such differences weren’t statistically significant.