Tips for attracting and retaining dental staff

May 11, 2023
Two women dressed in dental worker gowns and wearing face masks and face shields while working on a patient. One of the women is holding a dental instrument as the other looks on.

If your dental practice is having trouble recruiting and retaining staff — you're not alone. According to recent figures from the American Dental Association (ADA) Health Policy Institute (HPI), more than 90% of dentists say recruiting dental hygienists has been extremely or very challenging, and nearly 90% of dentists indicate the same for recruiting dental assistants.1

But there are ways to build and retain a vibrant workforce in today's economy. The most common reasons why hygienists and dental assistants left their jobs include negative workplace culture, lack of growth opportunities and inadequate benefits. The good news? These are all factors your practice can address.

The dental industry has been slow to offer the modern benefits employees want and expect. While most dental assistants and hygienists receive dental benefits, paid holidays, paid vacation and retirement savings — they often lack paid leave, healthcare and other valued employee benefits.

The ADA asked dentists who do not offer these benefits why. While cost was listed as the main reason, a large portion of responding dentists indicated these benefits are not offered because it wasn't the industry norm and/or was not their obligation as an employer. However, 66% of U.S. employees said it is the employer's responsibility to make sure they are financially secure and well.2

"Dental practices are not only competing with each other to attract and retain dental staff, but you're also competing with other employers in other industries," said Nirmala Prabhu, DMD, Dental Director at Unum.

Create a strong workplace culture

Creating an engaging work culture that attracts and retains employees doesn't have to be costly. Listen to what your employees want and look at other local employer benefit packages. Voluntary supplemental and financial benefits are a great way to keep your business costs down and increase employee retention. Carriers like Unum and Colonial Life have benefits and technology designed to help small businesses care for their employees.

It's important to keep up with post-pandemic safety protocol as defined by the CDC, OSHA and ADA guidelines to protect the health of your patients and your staff — and help your practice create a stronger workplace culture. Other adjustments can also improve employee benefits, flexible work schedules and additional time off. Time away from the workplace, especially paid time off, helps prevent burnout and allows caregivers to balance professional and personal responsibilities. It also provides a backstop against catastrophe for families with little savings. Practices should recognize that the short-term cost of offering paid leave can be offset by the value of long-term retention.

Create efficiencies through network partnerships

Practices can also improve efficiencies by partnering with dental networks that offer modern technology. Provider portals can simplify the process of checking patient coverage, filing claims and receiving payments. This not only speeds things up but also reduces tedious tasks that can lead to staff burnout. Most importantly, when your staff can quickly pull information and effectively work with network partners, your patient can receive clear communications and expectations about their dental treatment.

When you invest in your workplace culture, you're investing in the well-being of your practice. Joining forces with an industry leader and technology innovator with people at heart can help position your practice to thrive in an increasingly competitive job market. Partnering with a dental network not only helps drive patients to your chair but also helps improve your staff's efficiency.

Connect with one of our dedicated provider relations team members for more information about joining our network, email

1 Harrison B. HPI: Dental office employment declined in March. American Dental Association. Health Policy Institute. April 10, 2022., accessed May 9, 2023
2 Employee Benefit Research Institute and Greenwald Research, 2022 Workplace Wellness Survey, 2022.

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