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Dental temps: Solution to the ongoing staffing shortage?

July 13, 2022
As the dental labor shortage continues to create bottlenecks in pandemic recovery efforts for dentistry, temporary dental workers could be a viable way to recoup lost productivity and more.

Dental associations across North America are appealing to their governments to help support the pipeline for additional dental labor. The solution, in addition to education, might be one of restructuring, offering tools to standardize temporary work.

The dental labor shortage has caused bottlenecks in pandemic recovery efforts for dentistry, disallowing dental practices from meeting the expected uptick regarding patient demand as restrictions universally ease. While employment levels recovered following significant dips early in the pandemic, today’s employment levels simply don’t match the evolving demands and desire for personalization that patients express regularly.

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As a result, dental temping has slowly emerged during the global health crisis as a viable solution to address the dental labor shortage as practices are looking for temporary employees who can adequately fill in for hygienists, assistants, and administrative staff. The flexibility and availability of dental temps have enabled recruiters to quell their hiring concerns and opened up opportunities for dental leaders to recoup lost productivity without spending considerable money and effort on new hires. 

Ready and available solutions for practices

Dental practices took their fair share of revenue hits due to pandemic shutdowns, and many were forced to reduce their capacities due to fewer skilled candidates being available. As a result, dental practices have been forced to expand their horizons in the hiring process, looking toward temporary employees to fill their needs for skilled positions. 

Collaborating with dental temp agencies opens dental leaders up to a pool of fitting, available workers who can come in right away and be an integral part of their dental teams. Dental temps typically have experience working at different practices, already coming into a job with some level of prior experience within a dental office. Dental temps are also ideal candidates for recruiters to hire because they are available to take last-minute appointments.

Before the pandemic, dental offices had more luxury of turning down last-minute appointments because they didn’t have the convenience of setting up such appointments given their schedules. Now, as dental practices try to recover lost income, dental temps allow practices to book as many last-minute appointments as possible because they have the added personnel to handle such short-notice bookings. 

Dental temping became one of the biggest staff trends of 2021, and, going forward, dental practices may rely on hiring temporary workers as a long-term strategy as more dental employees switch jobs or leave the dental profession altogether. 

Dental temps help practices meet new staffing standards

Increased investment in temporary dental employees allows dental practices to match the increased staffing standards that have been raised during the new normal. Practices have been actively recruiting dental hygienists and assistants but found major challenges in filling these positions, with some dental leaders expressing frustrations over a lack of applicants despite their best marketing efforts. Because of the inability to fill practice vacancies, offices have reduced their capacities, affecting their profit-making capabilities and leading to problems with accommodating increased patient volumes. 

Dentists expressed late last year that they needed more staff to see prepandemic patient volumes return to their respective practices. Balancing this with increased PPE (and other) costs has led to many frustrations for dental leaders, putting the futures of their practices at risk. 

Dental temps allow dental practices to match increased patient volume and demand because they can come in at any time and meet with patients on short notice. Temporary dental workers keep options open for dental leaders and give them the flexibility to address detailed client concerns, providing more personalized care and showing their ability to directly address client pain points. Dental temps lead to more direct approaches from dental leaders, winning client loyalty and ensuring temps get valuable experience that sharpens their skill sets and makes them strong assets for dental teams. 

Consider dental temps to boost work culture

Dental leaders should consider dental temps not only as a creative way to address the evolution of the dental workforce, but because temporary workers are beneficial to the work culture of any dental office. 

Dental temps are used to being in different offices and can offer useful suggestions that enhance collaboration and strengthen engagement within dental offices. Temporary workers can transition into different roles and seamlessly fit with team members because they are flexible workers who are adept at multiple skills. 

Temporary hygienists, assistants, and administrative staff can come in and be ready to perform on-call without compromising productivity. They come to build chemistry with their coworkers and don’t get caught up in toxic behaviors that often handcuff dental practices. They are positive influences on dental office work culture.

Dental temping is a modern solution that will aid the industry’s recovery from a difficult period, and, with more temping agencies available to assist recruiters, that recovery may offer more promising results sooner rather than later.