job satisfaction

Following DentalPost’s recently released annual salary survey, we conducted a dental job satisfaction poll of 551 dental professionals in February to find out:

  • What is driving dental workers to look for new jobs 
  • How to improve work environments and work relationships 
  • Level of job satisfaction among dental hygienists, dental assistants, and dental front office staff

Here’s what we learned from respondents, which included 227 dental hygienists, 217 dental assistants, and 107 front office team members.  

Dental Professional Job Satisfaction Report

Respondents cited positive interaction with patients and using their skills as the top things they enjoy most about their jobs. These two aspects of their jobs are paramount in maintaining engagement among dental practice team members to the extent that even when there is dissatisfaction with pay and the hours they work, they are still glad they chose their profession. This does not mean, however, that they are happy in their current jobs. 

Most respondents do still enjoy their profession.

  • 70% say they are glad they chose their career.
  • 40% have already recommended their career to others.
  • 68% say they get to do what they enjoy most 50 to 75% of their day.
  • 59.5% say they feel they accomplish something significant every day.

Top 3 Things Dental Employees Cite As Essential to Engagement

Polling shows that three of the five things dental employees like most about their jobs are so important that if they are missing or lacking, dental workers will go on the job market looking to fill these three essential needs. These include:

  1. Competitive, steady income that is not only growing and commensurate with their efforts, knowledge, skills, and professional judgment, but also covers their cost of living so they do not need to take on side work outside their primary employment.
  2. A healthy work environment in which they can mentally and emotionally thrive and where the mission of the dental practice is clear and in alignment with their ethics and core values. They also cited desiring a workplace that provides support from their co-workers, wherein the team shares a mutual gratitude and respect for each other and their supervisor treats them as a person and encourages their development. Dental team members are looking for practices where team members receive consistent recognition or praise for their good work. Some respondents lamented their toxic work environments in which there is high tension, gossip, bullying, chronic disrespect, and sometimes, even sexual harassment by management or owners. 
  3. Trust and appreciation from not only the patients they serve, but also their employer, supervisor, and other employees in the dental practice. They can safely talk about their aspirations and concerns and know they will be heard and appreciated. Respondents feel their opinions and suggestions are well received and considered. Additionally, they feel they have influence on improving operations and power in co-creating a positive work and patient care culture.
Top 5 aspects dental workers enjoy most about their jobs
Top 6 Reasons dental workers are applying for jobs in 2022

What New Things Does the Job Satisfaction Survey Reveal?

The job satisfaction survey results and open comments indicate that dental hygienists, dental assistants, and front office staff believe 2022 is a good time to look for a better position in terms of higher pay, appreciation for what they bring to the table, and leaving a toxic or unsupportive work environment. 

Dental Workers Are Running from Workplace Toxicity

Among survey respondents who are actively job seeking, a large number of them stated they want to escape a toxic work environment, including:

  • 55.75% of front office staff
  • 38% of dental hygienists
  • 31% of dental assistants

Employers and managers would be wise to take an honest inventory of the state of their dental office culture and act accordingly to make changes to reduce future turnover. Is there high tension, gossip, bullying, chronic disrespect, and sometimes, even sexual harassment occurring in your workplace? If so, don’t hesitate to change the situation, even if it leads to replacing one or more instigators. 

Transforming an entire dental practice’s culture takes time and intentional action. That said, a practice owner being willing to acknowledge to the team that they recognize the toxicity of their workplace and are committed to changing it is enough to keep some team members in place. Change must happen from the top-down, with the practice owner(s) and managers setting culture change as a top priority and then providing healthy, intentional leadership and action on a consistent basis. So, a practice coach that initiates transformation and continues checking up on and guiding the transformation could be the best investment you make in your dental practice and your team this year.

There Are Opportunities to Raise Dental Team Member Job Satisfaction 

The job satisfaction survey reveals that a third or more of the respondents are not receiving the mental and emotional cues from their employers and supervisors that they need to remain engaged with their current job. 

The following chart includes workers’ needs, based on extensive data collected and analyzed over the years by Gallup, the leading global analytics and advice firm that helps leaders and organizations solve their most pressing problems.

Opportunities to Improve Employees-employers Relations

There are five clear opportunities for improving employer-employee communication and relations. Eighty-one percent of dental hygienists, dental assistants, and front office team members reported a lack of regular encouragement to develop.

  • 82% have not had a conversation with their employer/supervisor in the last 6 months about their progress.
  • 65% think their employer/supervisor does not care about them as a person.
  • 69% don’t think their opinions matter.

Dental practice owners and managers who care about their team members and take care to maintain healthy employee engagement regularly take time to recognize these needs and take action to support them. DentalPost provides tools such as an emotional intelligence (EI) assessment tool that allows job seekers and employees to privately assess their EI strengths and weaknesses, while also providing resources to improve EI, which can strengthen communications and relations. 

Everyone benefits when employers and managers take the following 5 steps:
  1. Provide a safe avenue for conversations that enable employees. Specifically, this includes expressing how they feel about their work, seeking solutions to problems, and eliminating any expectations concerns.
  2. Demonstrate they care about individual employees by actively learning what is important to them inside and outside the practice. Additionally, show interest in what is important to them. Support them with empathy and appropriate time off when they are sick or in a personal crisis. Intentionally create a healthy work environment like the one described above.
  3. Regularly facilitate one-on-one meetings and team meetings. This way, suggestions can be offered, the why behind policies clarified, and opinions respectfully discussed.
  4. Encourage employee development and recognize development as it occurs. There are many ways to applaud reaching a milestone. These milestones include completing a CE program, achieving mastery of software, teaching or mentoring, and meeting production goals. Recognize and praise teamwork involved.
  5. Habitually express thanks and praise for even simple things. For example:
    • “I really appreciate how you always arrive early.”
    • “I’m really appreciative that I can always count on you to fully update patient records.”
    • “I can tell that patient really trusts you. After your conversation, she scheduled treatment for next week.”
    • “Because you personally call to remind patients of their treatment appointments and allow them to ask questions ahead of time, I know they will show up. I just want to thank you for going the extra mile on that.”

Dental Hygienist Job Satisfaction

A total of 227 dental hygienists responded to the poll. A breakdown of their experience includes:

  • 57.25% have 16+ years of experience.
  • 15% have 10 to 15 years of experience.
  • 27.75% have less than 10 years of experience.
What is their level of Job satisfaction?

When asked how they would rate their satisfaction with their work environment on a scale of 1 to 5, with 5 being “extremely satisfied”, the average rating of respondents was 2.9.

2.9 average rating for dental hygienist job satisfaction
  • 61% said They Feel They Achieve Something Significant Most Days.
  • 50% said They Feel They Can Make Suggestions.
  • 69% said Their Employer doesn’t Provide a Way to Safely Communicate Concerns.
Do They Have Supportive Relationships at Work?
  • 36% said their employer seems to care about them as a person.
  • 15% said there is someone at work who encourages their development.
  • 32.5% said their opinions seem to matter.
  • 58% said they have a friend at work.
  • 14.5% said someone has talked to them about their progress within the last 6 months.
  • 24.5% said that within the last week they had received recognition or praise for their good work.
What Do They Like Most About Their Job?
  • Their top “like” is positive interaction with clients, followed by good income.
How Many Are Applying for New Jobs?
  • 59.25% said they are actively seeking and applying for new jobs in 2022. This is higher than the 17% reported in DentalPost’s annual salary survey conducted in mid-July through September of 2021. Open comments indicate, they believe this is a good time to find a better position.
  • Their top desire is higher pay, followed by the desire for more appreciation.
Top Reasons Cited For Applying For a New Job
*A toxic work environment is defined as one in which there is bullying, gossiping, high tension, and/or sexual harassment.
Do They Feel the Quality of Their Work Has Decreased?
  • 67% said no. Overall, they do not perceive that the quality of their work has decreased over time.
  • The following are the top reasons that 33% feel their work quality has diminished:
    • 72% are fatigued.
    • 60.5% are pressed for time.
    • 55% said scheduling is outside their control.
    • 38% said office operating procedures are outside their control.
How Many Feel They Are Experiencing Burn Out? 
  • 77.75% said they are experiencing chronic physical, mental, and emotional fatigue.
  • 34.5% have felt this way for less than one year.
  • 35% have felt this way for the past 1 to 2 years.
  • 30.5% have felt this way for more than 2 years.
Career Satisfaction
  • 50.5% have recommended their career to others.
  • 70.75% are satisfied with their career overall.
top 4 reasons they chose their career

Dental Assistant Job Satisfaction

A total of 217 dental assistants responded to the poll.

All years of experience were represented, with the greatest representation from those who have worked 16 or more years in their profession. 

  • 51.5% have 16+ years of experience.
  • 19% have 10 to 15 years of experience.
  • 29.5% have less than 10 years of experience.
What is their level of Job satisfaction?

When asked how they would rate their satisfaction with their work environment on a scale of 1 to 5, with 5 being extremely satisfied, the average rating of respondents was 2.9.

2.9 average rating for dental assistant job satisfaction
  • 68% Feel They Achieve Something Significant Most Days.
  • 64.25% Feel They Can Make Suggestions.
  • 63% said Their Employer doesn’t Provide a Way to Safely Communicate Concerns.
Do They Have Supportive Relationships at Work?
  • 32.75% said their dental employer seems to care about them as a person.
  • 23.5% said there is someone at work who encourages their development.
  • 27.75% said their opinions seem to matter.
  • 44.5% said they have a friend at work.
  • 19.75% said someone has talked to them about their progress within the last 6 months.
  • 27.75% said that within the last week they had received recognition or praise for their good work.
What Do They Like Most About Their Job?
  • Their top “like” is the ability to use their skills, followed by positive interaction with clients.
How Many Are Applying for New Jobs?
  • 63% said they are actively seeking and applying for new jobs in 2022. This is higher than the 29.5% reported in DentalPost’s salary survey conducted in mid-July through September of 2021. Open comments indicate, they believe this is a good time to find a better position.
  • Their top desire is higher pay, followed by the desire for more appreciation.
Top Reasons Cited For Applying For a New Job
*A toxic work environment is defined as one in which there is bullying, gossiping, high tension, and/or sexual harassment.
Do Dental Assistants Feel the Quality of Their Work Has Decreased?
  • 73.5% said no. Overall, they do not perceive that the quality of their work has decreased over time.
  • The following are the top reasons that 26.5% feel their work quality has diminished:
    • 64% said appointment scheduling is out of their control.
    • 56% report fatigue.
    • 54% said higher efforts do not seem to make a difference.
    • 46% are too pressed for time.
How Many Dental Assistants Feel They Are Experiencing Burn Out? 
  • 77.75% said they are experiencing chronic physical, mental, and emotional fatigue.
  • 44.5% have felt this way for less than one year.
  • 34% have felt this way for the past 1 to 2 years.
  • 21.5% have felt this way for more than 2 years.
Dental Assistant Career Satisfaction
  • 56.75% have recommended their career to others.
  • 72.75% report satisfaction with their career overall.
Top 5 reasons they chose their career

Dental Front Office Job Satisfaction

A total of 107 front office team members responded to the dental job satisfaction poll. Their positions were represented as follows:

front office responses by position

The following statistics were calculated based on all front office responses—including all dental practice managers, billing specialists, and other front office staff.

All years of experience were represented, with the greatest representation from those who have worked 15 or more years in their profession. 

years of experience
What is their level of Job satisfaction?

When asked how they would rate their satisfaction with their work environment on a scale of 1 to 5, with 5 being extremely satisfied, the average rating of respondents was 3.

3.0 average rating for dental front office job satisfaction
  • 69.5% said They Feel They Achieve Something Significant Most Days.
  • 68.75% said They Feel They Can Make Suggestions.
  • 58% said Their Employer doesn’t Provide a Way to Safely Communicate Concerns.
Do They Have Supportive Relationships at Work?
  • 45.5% said their dental employer seems to care about them as a person.
  • 31.75% said there is someone at work who encourages their development.
  • 27.25% said their opinions seem to matter.
  • 54.5% said they have a friend at work.
  • 41% said someone has talked to them about their progress within the last 6 months.
  • 41% said that within the last week they had received recognition or praise for their good work.
What Do They Like Most About Their Job?
  • Their top “like” is the ability to use their skills, followed by positive interaction with clients.
How Many Are Applying for New Jobs?
  • 67.5% said they are actively seeking and applying for new jobs in 2022. This is higher than the 20.5% reported in DentalPost’s salary survey conducted in mid-July through September of 2021. Open comments indicate that they believe this is a good time to find a better position.
  • Their top desire is higher pay, followed by the desire to leave a toxic environment, which is commonly defined as one in which there is bullying, gossip, high tension, and/or sexual harassment.
Top Reasons Cited For Applying For a New Job
Do They Feel the Quality of Their Work Has Decreased?
  • 63.75% said the quality of their work is not what it used to be.
  • The top reason they reported for this decline is fatigue, followed by the belief that higher efforts do not make a difference.
Top Reasons Cited For Applying For a New Job
How Many Feel They Are Experiencing Burn Out? 
  • 79.75% said they are experiencing chronic physical, mental, and emotional fatigue.
  • 56.5% have felt this way for less than one year.
  • 27% have felt this way for 1 to 2 years.
  • 16.5% have felt this way for more than 2 years.
Career Satisfaction
  • 63.25% have recommended their career to others.
  • 74% are satisfied with their career overall.
Top 4 reasons they chose their career
Two-Year Comparison of Salary Data

Because 61.5% of dental front office workers who are applying for new jobs indicated they are seeking higher pay, we thought it worthwhile to compare the salaries reported in DentalPost’s 2021 salary survey to the salaries they reported in DentalPost’s 2022 salary survey.

In the following chart, we see a significant increase in annual income for dental practice managers. Only 26% reported earnings last year totaling less than $40,000.

office managers: income

Over the last two years, the total income of other dental front office team members also rose, but not as significant as the income of office managers.

other front office staff: income

The percentage of dental practice managers, who have an hourly wage greater than $30 rose from 16% to 29% over the last year. The percentage of dental practice managers, who have an hourly wage less than $21 fell from 16% to 9.25%. 

front office managers: hourly wage

In the following chart, we see that the percentage of other front office team members who have an hourly wage greater than $30 rose from 0% to 5% over the last year. The percentage of other front office staff who have an hourly wage less than $21 fell from 44% to 43%. 

front office staff other than office managers: hourly wage

DentalPost’s 2022 Salary Survey Report found that 25.5% of dental front office managers were “dissatisfied” or “very dissatisfied” with their income. Among these, 58% had received a raise within the last two years.

The survey also found that 40% of other dental front office team members reported feeling “dissatisfied” or “very dissatisfied” with their income. Among these, 52.75% had received a raise within the last two years.


Dental Hiring and Career Resources

View the 2022 Dental Salary Report to see how your practice compares when it comes to compensation, benefits, bonuses, work conditions, and more.

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