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HPI: Staffing challenges becoming major issue in dental offices

Research data includes dentists’ responses on recruitment challenges

August 30, 2021

By David Burger

HPI staffing August 2021 

Filling dental team vacancies remains a struggle for dentists across the country, according to the ADA Health Policy Institute’s latest data from a poll conducted the week of Aug. 16.

The August results included data about:

• Patient return highest to date: Patient volume in private practices was at 89% on average in August, the highest it has been since polling began in March 2020. Patient volume in public health settings also hit a new record, nearly 90% of pre-COVID-19 levels. More than one in four health center dentists indicated they had greater patient volumes compared to before the pandemic.

• Recovery confidence takes a dip: Dentists’ confidence in pandemic recovery declined in August to the lowest it’s been since early 2021, possibly due to concerns related to recent COVID-19 Delta variant updates. More than 70% of dentists still express confidence in the recovery of their practices and the sector in general, but this decreased from roughly 80% in July.

• Recruitment of team vacancies difficult: Dentists are facing even greater challenges in recruiting dental team members than in October 2020. About four in 10 have recently or are currently seeking dental assistants, and roughly one-third have recently or are currently hiring dental hygienists. Among those recruiting, 90% considered recruitment of dental hygienists extremely or very challenging. Open staff positions is the most common limiting factor for practices that want to see more patients.

To measure the effects of COVID-19 on the U.S. dental economy, the ADA Health Policy Institute has been conducting a regular poll of dentists on economic conditions since the beginning of the pandemic. The poll quantifies how COVID-19 has shaped dentists' delivery of care, financial sustainability and overall attitude toward their profession.

Links to reports from multiple waves of this polling are available at ADA.org/hpi.