Supporting the Full Dental Team: Reversing the Shortage of Dental Hygienists and Dental Assistants

National Partnership for Dental Therapy

Reports indicate an estimated 11% reduction in national dental practice capacity caused by the shortage of dental assistants and dental hygienists in 2022, while the COVID-19 pandemic led to an approximate 8% decrease in dental hygienist employment. Furthermore, enrollment across the United States in dental assisting programs has faced a decrease since 2015 and research indicates that 1/3 of the dental assistant and dental hygienist workforce expect to retire in five years or less. As we work to authorize and implement dental therapists across the states, it is important to ensure there is a supportive working environment for them as well as other dental professionals.

…Some of the main factors that contribute to dental assistants’ and dental hygienists’ satisfaction are being valued, having opportunities to advance in their professional career, and having good communication with the team and with their supervisors. Jean Moore, DrPH, FAAN, Director of Center for Health Workforce Studies affirmed that similar research has corroborated that workforce issues are at least partly related to workplace culture. Their research shows that staff satisfaction is associated with being treated as partners, as people who have something to contribute, rather than as employees who merely receive orders.

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