Dental practices began reporting significant staffing issues around January 2022. Although the “Great Resignation” has slowed in other industries, staffing remains very challenging for dental practices.
It is now understood that while the coronavirus pandemic did affect dental staffing, enrollments in dental hygiene and assisting programs have been declining for years.1 An October 2022 report from the American Dental Association cautioned, “While there has been some recovery of enrollment in dental hygiene programs, data suggest that dental assisting program enrollment will not rebound in the near future. As a result, workforce shortages are likely to remain an issue for years to come.”1
Dental Economics, the leading business journal for the dental profession and DentistryIQ’s sister publication, recently conducted its 2023 Fee and Staffing Survey.2 In addition to asking dentists about how often they were updating fee schedules and what their fees were, the survey focused on staffing challenges and costs, as these have become very important factors for dental practices.
The survey found that filling dental hygiene and assisting positions is still very challenging for most. Dentists in the Northeast expressed the most frustration with staffing, although it seems there’s nowhere in the US that dentists are having an easy time. While practices in the South had the least difficulty in filling positions, increases in staff salary appeared to hurt them more. They were more likely than practices in other regions to say that increased staffing costs were negatively impacting their practice more than anything else.
The survey found that many practices were not updating their fees frequently enough. Twenty-three percent had updated within the last one to two years, and for 11%, it had been more than two years. The key opinion leaders Dental Economics consulted all agreed that raising fees each year was vital to a practice remaining profitable—and therefore competitive with staff salaries.