Dental practices have taken a huge hit from the pandemic, and the industry is still reeling from the impact. While many offices were able to overcome the lockdowns and mitigate the health risks of in-person appointments, there’s one lingering consequence that’s had a major effect on dentistry: Staffing shortages.
For most industries, it started with widespread job losses in the first few months of COVID-19, which quickly spiraled into the Great Resignation. As millions of employees quit their jobs each month to find better opportunities, dental practices have struggled to find the staff they need.
So how can your office combat these shortages and stay competitive?
Let’s take a closer look at how staffing shortages are impacting the dental industry and what you can do to minimize the damage.
How Labor Shortages are Impacting Dental Offices
At the beginning of the pandemic, the dental sector experienced a drastic decrease in employment, dropping by 56% from January to April 2020, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). And it didn’t help that by March, the New York Times had already ranked dentistry as one of the highest-risk occupations and settings for spreading COVID-19.
The impacts of the pandemic were obvious and devastating: More and more people were leaving the profession over concerns about health risks and other reasons.
As the world moved past the worst of COVID-19, the dental industry began to bounce back, too—but not without a lot of effort. Practices were already well-prepared to prevent the spread of disease, and as lockdowns eased, the sector began to focus on recruiting again. Around August of 2021, nearly 40% of practice owners were actively trying to hire dental assistants, and almost all of them reported significant difficulties in filling positions, the American Dental Association (ADA) reported. Despite these challenges, the dental sector saw an employment gain of around 48,000 by the end of the year.
But again, it wouldn’t last long.
Where Did Your Dental Team Go?
A troubling trend emerged in 2022 as U.S. dental offices lost over 1,500 employees in just the first quarter, according to the ADA. So, in addition to replacing staff that left and never returned during the pandemic, dental practices now must contend with attrition. As practice owners compete to hire top talent, it’s left a considerable void in the labor market. In March 2022, a separate ADA report found that 92% of dentists faced extreme difficulties in recruiting hygienists and assistants.
All these figures might be disconcerting, but don’t worry too much. Many practices have already begun using technology solutions to overcome their staffing woes. How can you do the same?
Leveraging Tech to Combat Staffing Issues
While robotic dentists and automated assistants are still a thing of sci-fi movies, the dental industry is continually finding new ways to use current technology to mitigate the impacts of staffing shortages. One such innovation has been the rise of cloud-based dental practice management systems—a comprehensive solution that addresses both clinical and administrative needs to boost practice productivity, revenue and the patient experience. Using a practice management system to streamline and optimize your administrative and clinical workflows not only saves you time, but the boost in productivity can enable your practice to work just as efficiently with limited staff. Without the need to micromanage business operations, dentists can spend more time on what’s most important: Delivering top-notch patient care and excellent results.
Using Your DPMS to Mitigate Staffing Challenges
As the dental industry continues to face staffing challenges, practice owners will need to adapt to avoid potential setbacks, both in terms of their finances as well as patient flow. To help you hold your ground against these staffing shortages, here are a few ways you can use DPMS to make the most of your reduced staff:
Take your practice into the cloud: Paper filing and on-premise networks can only get you so far. With cloud-based solutions, you get unlimited secure storage for patient files plus HIPAA-compliant access from anywhere and at any time.
Unify your data on a single platform: If your DPMS doesn’t centralize data across your practice’s disparate systems, it might be time to ditch it. Your management platform should consolidate all your information to make it easier to update and access.
Automate appointment scheduling: Provide a convenient experience for patients and staff alike by leveraging online scheduling, appointment reminders and traffic notifications to ensure your patients arrive at your office on time.
Improve patient communication: While it might not seem relevant to labor shortages, communication with your patients can definitely suffer without enough staff. Your DPMS should offer automated text messages and live call features to facilitate clear communication without the need for additional staff.
Like many industries, dental practices are expected to continue struggling with talent shortages for the foreseeable future. But that doesn’t mean you have to reduce your patient flow—it just means you need a smarter solution that streamlines operations and boosts productivity.
Find the Right Solution with Carestream Dental
Sensei Cloud is the flagship platform of Carestream Dental’s software portfolio. It’s designed by and for dental professionals of all specialties. As the most comprehensive dental practice management solution in the industry, it simplifies your entire workflow on a single, centralized and easy-to-use platform.
Additionally, Patient Manager offers a digital hub for all your communication and appointment scheduling needs. With two-way texting, online booking and automated reminders and confirmations, you have everything you need to improve communications and enhance the patient experience.
Step into the future and fight back against staffing shortages with Carestream Dental. Ready to give it a try? Request a demo today.