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Dental Career Track Pt. 2: What Dentists Can Do to Face the Dental Hygienist Shortage (And Attract Talent)

By Planet DDS
June 28, 2021

The data doesn’t lie! So, let’s get the initial dose of it out of the way and address the dental hygienist shortage. Then we’ll let reality point you in the direction of what dentists can do to attract talent.

It would appear out-of-touch to not place the general malaise across dentistry on the shoulders of 2020’s COVID-19 pandemic. More specifically, hygiene departments across the U.S. are facing a shortage of registered dental hygienists.


Following are a few statistical realities to put this whole shortage deal in perspective.

First, it’s not merely “new-news.” Today’s RDH reports on the U.S. Bureau of Labor and Statistics information going back to 2019.

“…as of 2019,…there are 226,400 dental hygiene jobs in the U.S., with a projected increase in demand of 13,300 by 2029.” [1]

Now, about the pandemic’s impact…

Today’s RDH reveals that,

”The pandemic has reduced the number of hygienists who are willing to seek employment. Since the onset of the pandemic, numerous surveys conducted through the Health Policy Institute (HPI) have analyzed the impact that COVID-19 has had on dentists and dental practices (a few have focused on the specific impact on dental hygienists).” [2]

The HPI survey drills-down a bit deeper. Here’s the scoop as covered by Today’s RDH:

”The HPI survey points to a voluntary reduction according to 59.1% of hygienists. Today’s RDH posted results of their COVID-19 survey revealing that 9% of hygienists left the field for the following reasons:

  • Retired early due to the pandemic (24%)
  • Did not feel safe working clinically “at this time” (21%)
  • Laid off or fired due to the pandemic (10%)
  • Employer did not provide PPE or safe work environment (4%)
  • Needed to stay home with children (3%)” [3]

Now that you know at least a portion of the problem…let’s focus on attracting talent

The data states the facts clearly: COVID-19 revealed what have perhaps been some weaknesses in practice cultures. Whether yours has experienced them or not, it’s a good time to do some evaluation and take a broad look at how you can attract the right talent to your dental practice or dental organization.

Start with “You” and “Your” practice

Your dental practice leaves clues about what it’s like to work there. If you’re giving the impression that times are tough – and your practice appears that way – guess what?

Putting your best foot forward isn’t about “smoke-and-mirrors.” But it IS about being realistic and building a culture around integrity and…trust!

  • Let potential candidates ask the hard questions. Be clear that all’s-fair as they seek to get acquainted before committing to a (hopefully) longterm relationship with you/your team.
  • Give potential team members the opportunity to see the real-time, not-so-perfect side of daily life in your practice. When something’s “messy” have a side-bar conversation to unpack the details and process solutions. This is a good way to determine how someone would perceive and work through challenges.

Stoke your benefits

Team pay and package benefits can drift into the mundane. Attracting quality team members requires hitting “refresh” on your compensation and employee benefits.

Evaluate every aspect of “working for you.” From pay to role descriptions to performance reviews to schedule flexibility to workplace perks to adequate and updated equipment to communication.

If you want the best to inquire you’ll need to up-your-game around the benefits of them investing their training and skills with you and your team.

Shore-up your hiring process

Some interviewing and hiring protocols are dated. Others are awkward and leave candidates feeling uninformed.

If they feel that way in the interview process how will they feel about being part of the team? It’s vital to create solid footing for them to walk around and get to know you as you get to know them.

Clearly spelling out the expectations and overall experience of being a team member makes the transition much smoother from the outset.

  • Provide a written, specific expectation timeline relative to their role (e.g. 30, 60, 90 days, etc)
  • Give them a “preview” of your onboarding process (you do have one, right?). Include a thorough scope of all training, staff expectations, payroll, etc.
  • Allow them time to hear from you (the dentist), key clinical team members, and front-office team members about your standard of care and patient experience standards.
  • Provide them the comfort of knowing they have time to “bond,” get acquainted, and gain credibility within your practice culture. Be realistic about this (and don’t rush it).

Hiring is a series of very strategic conversations. Each are designed to uncover the best person for the role.

Help your dental hygienists succeed with the following resources:

Set Your Dental Hygienists Up for Success

The Productive Power of a Synchronized Dental Back-Office Workflow

Building a Resilient Practice: How You Can Prevent Burnout for Dental Office Employees

Attracting talent (like dental hygienists) is supported by attractive resources that help drive your practice success

Planet DDS has experience with the ins-and-outs of how to run a successful dental office. Our dental practice management software, Denticon, provides a streamlined system for the success strategies we just shared.

Denticon is the proven cloud-based Dental Practice Management Software in today’s market among solo private practices, private group practices, and top DSOs.

Contact us for more information about how Denticon can streamline your workflow systems and operational tasks that can help you (and your dental hygienists) stay productive and successful.

[1]                  Occupational Outlook Handbook: Dental Hygienists. (2021, February 18). S. Department of Labor: Bureau of Labor Statistics. Retrieved from


[3]                  Hartley, M. (2021, February 27). The Today’s RDH Pandemic Dental Hygiene Survey: The Results. Today’s RDH. Retrieved from