The Dilemma Facing Dental Care

By Jonathan Baker
(Contributor: Michael Perpero, Growth and New Business Intern at EGC)

A concerning situation is impacting the dental health field: The lack of qualified professionals. This situation affects everyone—from dental practitioners to those who make annual or biannual visits to have their teeth checked. How serious is the situation, and what can be done to stabilize it?

Percentages worth pausing over

Last month, Dentistry IQ published detailed findings about the need for dental professionals, which is so serious that United States senators have met to discuss the immediate need and potential solutions. Consider these statistics:

  • 95 percent of dentists are experiencing difficulty in recruiting hygienists.
  • 87 percent of dentists have trouble hiring—and retaining—dental assistants.
  • The COVID-19 pandemic, despite being contained for the most part, resulted in an 8 percent decline of dentists.

Compounding this situation is that many dental professionals are nearing retirement age, and there has been a shortage of younger people who wish to study dentistry. Additionally, under-represented and marginalized communities are particularly vulnerable to the decline in dental care.

Solutions to the situation

Despite the seriousness of the gap between the need for proper dental care and qualified professionals, solutions are being implemented. These include:

  • Online digital marketplaces—maybe considered as the “LinkedIn” or “Indeed.com” of the dental sector—efficiently and quickly matches professionals to practices.
  • Establishment of the Dentist and Dental Hygienist Compact—an initiative that enables professionals to move to other states, thus addressing staff shortages.
  • Stronger connections between dental schools and practices, where students who choose this field will gain hands-on experience and benefit from mentorship opportunities.

Where education and promoting interest in careers in dentistry are concerned—especially in under-represented communities—several organizations have joined forces to take very proactive steps.

S.M.I.L.E. is making strides…

The fittingly named S.M.I.L.E. (Student Mentoring with Immersive Learning and Enrichment) Healthcare Pathway Program from Henry Schein, has entered a partnership with the National Dental Association and the Schattner Foundation. Together, these organizations will appeal to minority students about the possibilities of pursuing careers in dentistry. Additional partners to this effort are:

  • The Hispanic Dental Association
  • The Society of American Indian Dentists
  • Meharry Medical College School of Dentistry
  • A.T. Still University’s Arizona School of Dentistry & Oral Health
  • A.T. Still University’s Missouri School of Dentistry & Oral Health

As explained in Dental Products Report, in the S.M.I.L.E. Program, students who are as young as ninth and tenth graders are given a variety of resources to help build their interest in dentistry. These resources include mentorship programs, networking opportunities, and workshops.

So, while the current lack of dental professionals is pressing, the measures put forth by the S.M.I.L.E. Program will hopefully strengthen and ease this need in time.

If you are a dental professional and wish to increase the presence of your practice in attracting not only patients but qualified staff members, EGC can be of service. We have extensive experience in marketing to the dental field. For examples, check out our campaign for Dental365 and a website we recently created and launched for Cornerstone Dental.

Get in touch with us to learn more.