dental hiring & recruiting

This article was originally published on May 26th, 2021. It was most recently updated on April 25th, 2022.

While the world of dentistry has largely recovered from the COVID-19 pandemic, there are still lingering effects impacting the dental industry today. 

Even though patients are returning to practices and re-employment is outpacing other industries, the ongoing labor shortage is a persistent issue crippling dentists’ ability to do their job

Dental practices across the United States are struggling to find, train, and hire team members, affecting their ability to offer quick services. 

Thankfully, it’s not all doom and gloom in the dental world! 

The US Bureau of Labor & Statistics (BLS) reports that “employment of dental assistants is projected to grow 11% from 2020 to 2030, faster than the average for all occupations”. They also state that “employment of dental hygienists is projected to grow 11% from 2020 to 2030.

Although this is some much-needed good news, recruitment challenges are still very real at the moment.

This blog aims to answer some top questions related to these challenges:

  • Which positions are the hardest to fill?
  • Why is this the case?
  • What can you do to attract the right talent?

Struggling to Fill These Dental Positions?

The American Dental Association (ADA) Health Policy Institute’s 2022 Economic Outlook in Dentistry poll states that “trouble filling vacant staff positions” is one of the leading reasons dentists struggle to fill their appointment schedules. 

Dentists working in private practices have identified the positions they struggle the most with filling.

  • Dental hygienists came first, with 77.8% of dentists pointing to a lack of applicants and high wage and benefits demands fueling the shortage.
  • Dental assistants were second. Not enough applicants and unqualified or poor applications were the primary reasons provided by 57% of dentists. 

Other positions identified as challenging to fill included qualified dentists and admin personnel. 

Why Are There Fewer Candidates In the Dental Job Market?

So why exactly are we seeing this alarming shortage of valuable dental staff? While there are many contributors, it largely depends on the skills and training requirements for hygienist and assistant positions. 

  • Dental hygienists and assistants are highly-skilled positions that cannot be filled quickly. A hygienist needs a Bachelor’s Degree and years of experience training and working in a clinical setting to qualify. 
  • Dental assistants don’t need as many academic qualifications but still need a license and formal training. Because of their technical requirements, dentists and practice owners can’t hire just anyone for the role; candidates need to have the right qualifications, training, and experience.

Fewer Qualified Hygienists and Assistants Are Entering the Job Market 

Fewer students are choosing to study to become dental assistants and hygienists because the market is not meeting their expectations for earnings or additional benefits. Additionally, the pandemic reduced in-person class sizes – the only way to conduct dental hygiene instruction – thus, yielding fewer graduates. 

Are Dental Hygienists Looking for New Work Opportunities?

According to our 2022 Salary Survey Report findings, the percentage of dental hygienists wanting to apply for jobs in 2021 was lower compared to 2020. However, in our recent Job Satisfaction Poll, which reports job satisfaction among dental hygienists, dental assistants, and dental front office staff, nearly 60% of dental hygienists said they’re actively looking for new opportunities and applying for jobs in 2022

They listed a few reasons, such as wanting higher pay, more appreciation from employers for their time and effort, and wanting to work in a less toxic job environment. 

A persistent feeling of burnout contributes to these motives; 77.75% of respondents reported experiencing chronic fatigue, with 34.5% saying they’ve felt this way for at least a year and 30.5% saying more than two years. 

Are Dental Assistants Applying for New Jobs?

In the same report, over 27% of dental assistants stated that they planned to look for a new job in 2022. Of the assistants who responded, 63% said they’re actively searching and applying for jobs in 2022. Again, higher pay and more appreciation were listed as reasons for making a move, but assistants also identified needing better healthcare benefits as a top motivation.  

Dental assistants also appear to feel disconnected from their work. 26.5% of assistants who responded said that they think the quality of their work has decreased over time. Out of these assistants, 64% said time constraints and a lack of control over appointment scheduling are the main reasons why. 

What Can You Do to Attract Top Dental Talent?

What can you do as a dental practice owner to find the assistants and hygienists you need?

Preparing to Hire Starts at ‘Home’

We understand that the market is tight, and you may need help urgently. At DentalPost, we firmly believe that a smart hire is better than a fast hire. Taking a strategic approach to hiring candidates –  by focusing on your practice’s long-term needs and vision – can help you hire the right candidate the first time.

Use these questions to help you fill your vacancies and attract the right employees as quickly as possible. 

1. What Recruiting Strategies Are You Using?

The first thing you can do is optimize how you use job boards. If you’re using DentalPost for searches, take advantage of the Premium option or even the Super Premium plan to save you time and money simultaneously

We all know that connections and relationships play a significant role in hiring. Consider bringing the rest of your team on board to help find candidates by asking them to spread the word that you’re looking for new employees. Make it even more worth their while by offering them a reward if you end up hiring their referral. 

2. Is Your Interview Process “Candidate-Friendly”?

During the job application process, candidates evaluate you and how you do things as much as you assess them. 

Applicants have the luxury of choice for job opportunities, so time is of the essence. You need to move quickly in your interview process; if you take too long to set up an interview or respond to their applications or messages, they may think you’re not serious about them and move on. 

Make your recruitment process as “candidate-friendly” as possible by efficiently keeping the ball rolling. Be clear about what you’re looking for in a new team member and the benefits of joining YOUR team. Invite candidates to ask questions about the role and respond to them quickly.

If an applicant looks promising, set up a meeting as soon as possible. Let them know you’re excited to talk to them. You can even arrange for them to meet your team – in person or remotely – so they can get an idea of who they’d be working with. 

3. Should You Look at Candidates You Wouldn’t Usually Consider?

Unfortunately, with the current labor shortage, you’re less likely to find that “dream candidate,” so it’s worth looking at other prospects you might not normally consider. While they may not tick all the boxes, with the right qualifications and attitude, they could prove to be a valuable employee.  

Being a little more flexible in your job requirements and description will also encourage more applications, widening the talent pool from which you can choose. For example, you could list that you’re willing to take on someone with flexible hours or state that candidates can choose their hours for part-time work. 

4. Should You Hire for the Short Term and Re-Hire Later?

Is it practical to hire for the short-term in a labor crisis? At DentalPost, we believe hiring right the first time is the best strategy. Due diligence on a candidate’s qualifications and personality ensures the person you hire is the right fit for your team and practice. 

You may need assistance right now, but a bad hire can cost more than just your time and money – they could impact your practice’s reputation. However, we recognize that it’s a challenging time to hire, and patients need care right now. 

It might be worthwhile hiring a less experienced candidate only if they have the proper credentials. Consider hiring a more experienced candidate part-time if you can’t afford their full salary expectations. 

How to Attract the Right Talent

If you want to be an employer who draws potential employees, you need to understand their needs and values. Today’s generation is looking for meaningful work where they can feel appreciated and grow; how can you show them you’re an employer who cares about your staff’s job satisfaction and development?

Start building the right work environment now. 

  • Lead your team with clear goals and objectives, show appreciation for your staff members, and compensate them well. Creating the ideal work environment and being a solid leader for your team will set you up for attracting and retaining candidates.
  • Commit to creating a work environment in which employees will thrive. Foster a motivated, high-morale work culture where your team is positive and productive. Encourage open communication in your practice where team members can share their thoughts and feel heard. 
  • Mentor your staff and provide them with learning opportunities to develop their skills and experience. 

Lastly, make sure you’re looking in the right place for potential candidates and take advantage of DentalPost’s Premium Job Postings or Resume searches to attract or find ideal candidates for your dental practice. Add your employer information to your DentalPost profile to stand out and impact candidates. 

Need More Help? Download our Dental Hiring Toolkit

Finding and hiring suitable applicants is challenging, especially in today’s climate. Still, with a few practical approaches, you should be able to attract the kind of talent you’ll want to work with for the long term. 

We’ve created the Ultimate Hiring Toolkit to optimize your hiring process. Download the toolkit for practical tips, best practices, and more. By following our failsafe method for hiring, you can set yourself up for a successful hire the first time with a faster turnaround. 

If you haven’t already, take advantage of DentalPost’s Premium Job Postings or Resume searches to attract or find the best candidates for your dental practice. Click here to complete your practice profile today!

DentalPost is the dental industry’s premier and largest online and mobile job board.
We connect and educate more than 900,000 job seekers in the U.S. and Canada to build better places to work through teams that excel.
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