The Great Resignation is a term that originated in May 2021 when a record number of people began leaving their jobs due to the pandemic. A U.S. Department of Labor survey disclosed that during April, May, and June 2021, 11.5 million workers quit their jobs. For some people, their priorities shifted, and they decided their work-life balance was more important after working from home for a period of time. Some people decided to follow their dream career path or become stay-at-home parents. Even before the pandemic, there was a shortage in the number of dental practice employees.
When too many dental office positions are left unfilled, it tends to affect the operation negatively, possibly impacting the quality and care they can provide to their patients. As a result, workers with specialized training in dentistry may have an advantage. Young dentists are more able to step into established dental practices. Programs are also available that will forgive student loans for dentists who will treat patients in underserved areas through the National Health Service Corp.
Less Access to Care
More and more dental hygienists who were home during the pandemic are choosing not to return to the profession. There now seems to be a scramble to keep or attract qualified staff. The loss of dental staff has resulted in dentists not being able to see as many patients. This leads to longer wait times. Also, patients may decide to skip appointments altogether, which allows for simple dental issues to become serious. These things will lead to an increase in dental emergencies, heart disease, digestive trouble, and more dental-related health maladies.
Many late-career dentists are making the decision to retire earlier due to unfulfilled vacancies as a result of staffing issues, stress, and burnout. Once, older dentists had more spare time on their hands due to closing their practices to all but emergency procedures, and found they were ready to spend more time with family and hobbies sooner. Others had health issues which made them somewhat afraid to return to practice.
Patients Are Up for Grabs
Patients are also concerned they may not be able to access quality care nearby with dental practices closing due to staffing issues. The changes taking place in the dental profession provide a great opportunity to offer patients a better avenue of treatment. Patients are approaching their health care as consumers with definite choices in price, quality, and experience. This is the time for new dentists to shine above the rest with the patient experience they offer and build long-term patient relationships.
Practice Ownership Opportunities
The struggle with staffing issues has become a great opportunity for young dentists. Eighty-three percent of current dental students wish to own their own practice or partner in a practice within ten years after they graduate, according to a study conducted for the ADA by KJT Group. This seems to be the perfect time, as banks are more willing to lend to young dentists. Some dentists are willing to sell their practice at a cheaper price so their long-term patients will have good dental care. The extra money from saving on the purchase of the practice leaves room in the new owner’s budget for upgrades.
Investment in Technology
New hygienists and dentists desire to work in a modern practice with up-to-date equipment and technology. Modern technology and equipment eases the burden on the dental team. It can streamline time-consuming tasks so the dental team can focus more on patient care. It also increases practice profits in the long term. The choice to incorporate new tools and technology into your dental office benefits your patients, is helpful to your health team, and gives you a distinct advantage in the recruitment of dental staff.
The Future of Dentistry
While many tenured dental hygienists and dentists have left the field of dentistry or retired, there are plenty of others enrolling in training to earn a great career in dentistry. Dentistry will continue to evolve with new dentists and hygienists, as this is an unparalleled time to acquire or begin a dental practice to continue to deliver care. Plans need to continue to explore new ideas to retain hardworking dental staff. The field of dentistry is predicted to undergo an 8% growth between 2020 and 2030. This is proof dentistry will keep growing in the next decade. There seems to be no sign of it slowing down soon.
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