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Labor Shortage Affects Dental Industry posted on 07/27/2023
The Whole Tooth - Dr. Robert Kelly D.M.D

Well it seems almost every industry these days is struggling with a labor shortage. I am hearing from a lot of people in health care, construction, restaurant and other service industries about how short staffed they are now with no end in sight. Many people I have talked to have remarked that they have never seen it this way before in their lifetime.
Some new economic data has come out recently that points to how this is affecting dental offices nationwide. New data from the American Dental Association Health Policy Institute shows that patients are waiting longer than ever for appointments at a dental office. The average time a patient is now waiting for a dental appointment is 12 business days, and for new patients it is 23 business days. Oftentimes, a hygiene appointment is booked out many months due to no space in the schedule. Data in the report shows that about 38% of dental offices are actively trying to recruit more help for all different positions, including dentists and other staff members. Dental hygienists and dental assistants currently are the most in demand.
Recognizing the crisis in dental offices, a bill was introduced in the most recent Oregon Legislature to fund training for more dental hygienists and assistants. The bill made it part way through but ultimately did not pass this time around. Supporters are hopeful that it will return in the future to help alleviate the shortages out there. If something is not done soon there are looming problems with getting access to care in the future, as recent data has shown that graduation rates for dental hygienists and dental assistants in 2021 and 2022 are down from previous years.
Another recent economic report by the US Bureau of Labor Statistics found that the U.S. added 209,000 jobs in June with health care and government industries seeing the biggest gains.  However, in this time period dental offices lost 7,000 jobs! This could be for a host of different factors such as demographics, mobility of workers, childcare and finances. It may also point to the burnout and strain being put on dental office workers now and how much more demanding it is with administrative burdens. One difference now is the complex and time consuming insurance rules and regulations that are taking a greater share of office resources. As the paperwork and demands of dental insurance companies have increased exponentially in the past few years this has meant more time and energy from offices going into administrative work and less resources or labor towards actually providing patient care. For providers in the dental field we are all hoping for a better balance in the future.
As with all challenges the world and society evolves and I’m sure today’s problems will change in the future into different and new challenges in this ever changing and dynamic world. For now, we’re all trying to get through these busy times the best we can. Onward!



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