Dental staffing.


What comes to mind when you hear those two words?

Do you ask yourself how COVID-19 has changed the dental staffing landscape forever?

If so, the pandemic not only changed what it’s like to run or work in a dental practice, but when it came to dental staffing it exposed an ongoing issue that has been going on prior to COVID-19. That is, how can dental practices find and retain quality dental professionals.

COVID-19 pandemic

Living in this “new norm” comes with everyday challenges. Challenges that practices are still trying to understand and dissect in order to come up with solutions.

Before discussing a few of these challenges, it’s important for you as a dental practice to understand what the current dental industry looks like (growth, job outlook, trends etc.) Having this knowledge will allow you to determine if the industry is growing, stable or declining. Then we can focus on identifying your dental practice staffing needs and effective ways to meet those needs.

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Dentistry continues to be a highly respected, high demand and high-paying career.

Worldwide, the global dental market size is expected to reach 40,500 Million USD by the end of 2025.

In the U.S., the dental profession is expected to grow 3% from 2019 to 2029.

Oral health professionals are frequently named some of the best jobs in the country.

In fact, in 2020 the U.S. News & World Report named dentistry the second-best profession followed by orthodontists coming in at fourth place and oral & maxillofacial surgeons in at ninth place.

As the dental industry continues to grow steadily, the demand for dental services is also expected to rise due to:

  1. The current population aging. The aging baby boomers grew up learning about fluoride and preventative dentistry. They have also been educated on the various types of dental services needed in order to maintain good oral health and hygiene. Therefore, as they get older, they will continue to seek dental work, which overtime will get more complicated as the risk of oral cancer increases significantly with age.
  2. Research linking oral health to your overall health. Oral health is more important than you think. Maintaining good oral health keeps bacteria that is formed in your mouth under control. However, without proper oral hygiene, bacteria can cause disease, oral infections and inflammation. Therefore, dentists will need to continue to promote good oral hygiene vs. just providing treatments.
The growth of the dental industry

In 2019, dentists held about 151,600 jobs in the U.S.:

  • Dentists (general) 132,100
  • Orthodontists 7,200
  • Dentists (all other specialties) 6,200
  • Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeons 5,600
  • Prosthodontists 600
Dental equipment


When it comes to the supply of dentists, dentists are primarily concentrated in California, Texas and New York.

As we learned from the previous section, employment for oral health professionals is expected to continue growing.

In the dental industry, there are 12 recognized dental specialties.

According to the American Dental Association, the median annual net income for general dentists in private practice in 2019 was $175,000 and $285,000 for dental specialists.

As the demand for dental professionals increases, we have to keep in mind that dental salaries depend on:

  • The dental specialty
  • Geographic location
  • Experience
  • Number of jobs available etc.
Dental candidate at work

Starting with general dentistry, let’s take a look at the 10 best states and cities to practice:


  1. Alaska (average salary $186,845)
  2. Wisconsin (average salary $166,607)
  3. Iowa (average salary $157,670)
  4. Michigan (average salary $161,161)
  5. Ohio (average salary $157,184)
  6. North Dakota (average salary $153,872)
  7. Missouri (average salary $153,586)
  8. Minnesota (average salary $157,812)
  9. Tennessee (average salary $147,567)
  10. Indiana (average salary $150,630)


  1. Port St. Lucie, FL (average salary $227,870)
  2. Colorado Springs, CO (average salary $209,360)
  3. Prescott, AZ (average salary $205,550)
  4. Lake County, IL (average salary $222,200)
  5. Redding, CA (average salary $200,740)
  6. Wilmington, DE (average salary $221,020)
  7. Santa Cruz, CA (average salary $219,670)
  8. Fresno, CA (average salary $170,270)
  9. Dothan, AL (average salary $217,000)
  10. Rome, GA (average salary $186,680)

While general dentistry is a good-paying dental profession, other dental specialty income can be up to 50% higher. Let’s take a look at the 6 highest paying dental specialty jobs along with the best states and cities to practice:

Best states and cities to practice dentistry
  1. Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeon:
    • Best Paying States: South Dakota, North Dakota, and Montana
    • Best Paying City: Manchester, NH
  2. Endodontists:
    • Best Paying States: Alaska, South Dakota, and Nevada
    • Best Paying City: Urban Honolulu, HI
  3. Periodontists:
    • Best Paying States: Alaska, South Dakota, and Nevada
    • Best Paying City: Chelsea, MA
  4. Orthodontists and Dentofacial Orthopedists:
    • Best Paying States: Alaska, Nevada, and North Dakota
    • Best Paying City: Las Vegas, NV
  5. Prosthodontists:
    • Best Paying States: North Dakota, Minnesota, and Alaska
    • Best Paying City: Iowa City, IA
  6. Pedodontics:
    • Best Paying States: South Dakota, Montana, and Alaska
    • Best Paying City: Norwalk, CT
Dental candidate at work

One last thing dental professionals should keep in mind is the number of dental students graduating from dental programs. In the recent years, this number has increased, which means that competition for jobs will also increase especially in areas where there are already a sufficient number of dental professionals.

As we can see, dental professionals can choose to work anywhere.

However, if job competition rises, it might not be a bad idea to consider jobs in rural and underserved areas. Taking a job in rural and underserved areas at times comes with many benefits you will want to explore.


Qualified dental talent

Finding and retaining qualified dental talent is a challenge faced by many dental practices today.

It is a challenge because as we know, hiring and recruiting is a time-consuming process. Yet, knowing this many dental practices still fail to implement a strategic and thoughtful hiring process which in the end could be costly for the practice.

So, how can dental practices fill their dental staffing gaps?

Before even thinking about hiring and recruiting, dental practices must be able to identify what their dental staffing needs are in order to be successful.

Start with an internal assessment.

Assess where you are now by asking these key questions:

Internal assessment steps for dental practices

  1. Do I need to retain the same number of employees prior to the pandemic?
  2. How have employee roles shifted?
  3. Could job descriptions be more clearly defined?
  4. What tasks can be automated?
  5. How can job descriptions be altered to include new responsibilities/duties and other more producing tasks?
  6. What performance measurements can I put in place?

Now that we have a clear understanding of where your dental practice stands, lets focus on your clinical staff.

As a dental practice try to focus on identifying what improvements could be made to bring your practice back to its prior COVID-19 production and revenues or better. Ask yourself:

  1. How many patients can your clinical staff see without getting overwhelmed?
  2. If your staff is overwhelmed, can you bring in additional staff to help? If so, do you have job descriptions handy?
  3. As the number of patients increase in your practice, is there a process in place that allows you to allocate specific tasks to specific employees?
  4. Are unfilled appointments a common issue?
  5. Do you have a plan in place that addresses booking patient appointments months in advance, confirming patient appointments, ways to educate patients about the importance of return visits, fees and treatment options?
  6. Do your dental assistants work throughout their entire shift even when there are gaps in the schedule? If not, can you identify productive tasks (i.e., review lab cases, assist the hygienist, review treatment plans with patients etc.) for them to do?

Being able to identify, understand and develop a strategic plan for your dental staffing needs is crucial for the success of your practice.

Having a dental staffing plan aligns your dental practice objectives with the amount and type of dental professionals you need in order to obtain and sustain those objectives.


Hiring and recruiting dental candidates
Are you stressed about hiring and recruiting dental candidates?

Don’t worry, its actually pretty common in the dental industry due to the talent pool being much smaller when compared to other industries.

As your dental practice prepares to start its dental recruiting process, there are four things to keep in mind as an employer:

  1. Be flexible and open minded.
  2. Avoid making your candidate search extremely detailed.
  3. Don’t immediately disqualify a dental candidate without analyzing their hard vs. soft skills and personality traits.
  4. Develop a “must-have” and “nice-to-have” list of skills and requirements.

Following these suggestions will increase the possibilities of your dental practice finding qualified dental candidates.

Now, let’s explore 5 recruitment strategies to best attract and find dental candidates:

  1. Refine Job Postings / Messaging: When looking for dental candidates, don’t make your job posting so specific that no one qualifies. Instead, summarize the position, list key responsibilities, highlight what you offer and state why a candidate should apply. This is the first opportunity you have to best market your practice – make it clear and interesting to read, allowing the candidate to take immediate action.
  2. Referrals: Employee referrals uncover some of the best people/talent. Speak to your employees so that they are aware of the dental positions available, and even offer them a small incentive for referrals they provide.

Recruiting dental professionals

  1. Careers Page: Does your website have a careers page? If not, now might be the time to develop one (or at least consider one). A careers page allows candidates to browse through all open positions by title, location, and/or status (full or part-time) and immediately submit applications if interested.
  2. Online Job Boards / Social Media: Traditional job boards still exist today. Once you generate job postings for your website’s career page, utilize the same document (with small tweaks) and re-post it on job boards like Indeed, Monster, CareerBuilder, Zip Recruiter etc. Also, don’t forget to leverage social media. When posting jobs, make them very specific and targeted to avoid getting traction from non-qualified candidates – it is easy to engage a broader audience on social platforms.
  3. Dental Recruiter: If your dental practice doesn’t have its own recruiter or team, consider the help of a dental recruiting firm, like MASC Medical. Yes, it’s an investment, but it’s probably the most efficient and effective approach. Dental recruiters are recruiting experts, have access to a wide network of dental candidates, and utilize proven strategies to get you the candidates you’re looking for within a reasonable amount of time.

As you can see, your dental candidate search doesn’t have to be unsuccessful.

Take advantage of these suggestions and recruiting tips to help your dental organization find qualified, motivated and committed dental candidates who work well with your existing team and continue to create an amazing patient experience.


As the dental profession grows and the demand for dental services increase, we can agree that the need for dentists remains high.

But what about in the future?

Will the need for dentists remain high or will there be a dentist shortage?

Dental locum

To get a better outlook, let’s take a look at some predictions from select dental studies:

  • In 2017, “Estimating the Number of Dentists Needed in 2040,” predicted a surplus of dentists in 2040 according to future U.S. population projections of 380,000,000 and assumptions that dentists, on average, treat 2,000 patients per year:
    • If 42% of the population seeks dental care, 80,000 dentists will be needed
    • If 67% of the population seeks dental care, 127,000 dentists will be needed
    • ADA estimates 168,000 dentists in 2040, indicating a dental surplus between 32% and 110%
    • To sustain 168,000 dentists, approximately 88% of the projected U.S. population would need to seek dental care
  • The HRSA’s “Oral Health Workforce Projections, 2017– 2030” projects:
    • An “adequate” supply of dentists across the entire profession in 2030
    • A shortage of about 4,000 general dentists
    • A surplus of certain dental specialists, including pediatric dentists
  • Analysis in “Projecting the Demand for Dental Care in 2040” provides a more mixed prediction:
    • Dental visits will increase from 294 million in 2017 to 319 million in 2040
    • Dental visits per person will decrease from 0.92 in 2017 to 0.84 in 2040
    • The percentage of the population with a dental visit will rise from 41.9% in 2015 to 44.2% in 2040

As we can see, it’s a bit uncertain of whether the dental industry will face a surplus or shortage.

We can assume, if there is a surplus and there aren’t enough patients per dentists, it will become difficult to meet the economic demands of supporting a dental practice.

On the other hand, if there is a shortage of dentists, then dental practices are going to have to get “creative” when it comes to hiring and recruiting qualified dental candidates.

One common factor between these two possibilities is the fact that no matter the outcome, dental practices are going to have to figure out how to rebuild and return to maximum capacity, without putting too much impact on the dental practice’s expenses.

Locum tenens dentistsOne strategic way to remain open and to maintain your dental practice bottom line is by leveraging locum tenens dentists.

A locum tenens dentist (or traveling dentist) is defined as a dentist professional that fills in for other dentist temporarily when dental practices are facing dental staffing shortages due to vacancies, illness, death, vacations, maternity/paternity leave etc.

You might be asking yourself:

  1. Why are dental practices leveraging locum dentists?
  2. And why are dental professionals grasping this emerging practice style?

There are many benefits to dental locums – both on the employee and employer side.

More and more dentists are considering locum tenens dentistry jobs because of the freedom, flexibility and untapped earning potential that comes with the jobs. As a locum tenens dentist, you’ll benefit from:

  • Short or long-term dental jobs
  • Travel opportunities
  • Clinical experience
  • Malpractice insurance etc.

Dental practiceDental practices on the other hand, are using locum tenens dentists primarily to continue running their daily operations smoothly when permanent dentists are away or when unplanned leaves of absence occur.

Most importantly, locum dentists help dental practices have stability. They help dental practices remain at near or at full production, maintaining revenue streams. Additionally, they help sustain patient care, which is crucial in dental offices.

When it comes to locum tenens dentistry trends, it very much mimics supply and demand patterns in physician staffing. In fact, according to Dentistry IQ, during the last 12 months, locum tenens physicians have been utilized by 72% of hospitals and other medical groups. While locum tenens dentists are a rising trend that continues to be driven by the shortage of dentists, should these patterns continue to hold, locum dentists could play a larger role in the dental workforce.

Overtime, dental practices have learned that locum tenens dentists are some of the hardest, most dedicated professionals in the industry. They’ve learned to trust and rely on temporary dentists, temporary dental hygienist, temporary dental assistants etc. in order to mitigate today’s uncertainty and labor costs.


How do I motivate my dental staff?

What can I do as a dental employer to get my staff to do what I need them to do?

Why is it important for me as a dental practice to engage with my dental staff?

These are some common questions dental employers have when it comes to retaining and engaging with dental staff.

Dental employers need to understand that in order for dental staff to become motivated, the aspects of their position they find satisfying must increase and the aspects they find dissatisfying must decrease.

Remember that within your dental practice, your staff is most important when compared to patients. So, it is your job to create ways to utilize your dental staff’s talents while showing them praise and appreciation.

Investing in your dental staff could result in a better workplace, improved productivity, employee retention and overall success in your dental practice. Here are 5 ways to retain and keep dental staff engaged:

Dental executives in team meeting

  1. Communicate and Listen: Communicating with your dental staff often is one way to bring everyone together. If your dental practice doesn’t have any ongoing staff meetings, consider establishing one. Or send out email updates or use messenger to connect with staff. Employees want to be informed of what’s happening at the practice. Getting together with your staff helps create inclusion and it allows employees to participate, speak up and share their own perspectives and experiences.
  2. Growth Opportunities: Focus on employee training, continuing education, advance opportunities, performance improvement and overall job growth. As a dental employer, you can do this by conducting employee annual reviews to discuss performance, working with each employee to set goals, providing training in different dental areas so employees can learn new skills etc.
  3. Tools / Work Environment: Is your dental staff motivated or demotivated? If they’re motivated, great – brainstorm new ways in which you can continue to keep your staff happy. However, if they are demotivated, analyze their work environment. Ask yourself:
    • Do employees have access to the right technology/software to do their jobs successfully?
    • Do they have all the equipment and supplies needed?
    • Is the dental practice environment warm, inspiring and welcoming?
    • Are your employees stressed/burned out?

The answers to these questions will let you know if internal changes need to occur in order to provide dental staff with the right tools and environment for them to do their job successfully.

  1. Team Building: Find effective ways to connect with your staff. You can do this by:
    • Brainstorming with your dental staff
    • Practicing team building exercises
    • Encouraging them to connect with each other etc.

    All of these things will allow you to build a strong dental team.

  2. Employee Recognition: Employee recognition is something that employers often forget to acknowledge. It might seem small, but in reality, it can make a huge difference. If employees feel appreciated, they will be loyal and most likely stay for the long-term.

Take your dental practice to the next level by testing some of these unique and simple ways to motivate and engage your dental.

If you really want to dig deep and find out what makes your staff happy, ask them directly via a company survey or by having one-on-ones.

Team building strategies


This past year has been a challenge for dental practices and staff thanks to COVID-19.

Did you know that 75 percent of dentists deal with moderate to severe stress at some point in their careers?

In fact, burnout is a global problem.

According to a survey conducted by Harvard Business Review in the Fall of 2020:
Dental staff emotions

  • 89% of respondents said their work life was getting worse
  • 85% said their well-being had declined
  • 56% said their job demands had increased
  • 62% of the people who were struggling to manage their workloads had experienced burnout “often” or “extremely often” in the previous three months
  • 57% of employees felt that the pandemic had a “large effect on” or “completely dominated” their work
  • 55% of all respondents didn’t feel that they had been able to balance their home and work life – with 53% specifically citing homeschooling
  • 25% felt unable to maintain a strong connection with family, 39% with colleagues, and 50% with friends
  • Only 21% rated their well-being as “good,” and a mere 2% rated it as “excellent”

So, what exactly is burnout?

Burnout [burn-out]: Long-term stress marked by emotional exhaustion, depersonalization, and a lack of sense of personal accomplishment.

Feelings of burnout aren’t always 100% work-related. At times, it’s a combination of work and personal/lifestyle causes such as:

  • Long work hours
  • Stressful work situations
  • Workplace conflict
  • Lack of recognition / hard work
  • Insufficient pay and benefits
  • Uncooperative patients
  • Lack of sleep
  • No work-life balance
  • Negative view of self and surroundings
  • Focus on “perfection”
  • Need / wanting to be in control
Dental professional experiencing burnout

When dentists experience burnout, they are more likely to leave their practice and impact patient care and safety.

Therefore, if burnout isn’t addressed immediately it can result in turnover of qualified dental staff.

Here are 3 ways you can re-energize and re-focus your dental staff while overcoming turnover:

Dental staff in zoom meeting

  1. Communication: Establish ongoing communication throughout your dental practice. Be transparent. Create a “sense of community” among dental staff by gathering their feedback and opinions when it comes to performance measurements, goals and metrics, company policy decisions, contract negotiations, position descriptions etc. All of this will allow you to build “solid” human relationships with staff, while showing them how much they are valued.
  2. Maintain Commitments: As a dental employer, if you have specific workplace incentives and benefits (i.e., bonuses, paid time off, health insurance, flexible scheduling, etc.) make sure to keep them. This is one way to prevent high turnover rates.
  3. Mitigate Burnout: Develop a strategy around mitigating staff burnout. To do this, dental employers must be able to recognize the signs of staff burnout in order to create resources to help dental staff manage stress, anxiety, burnout etc.

The well-being of your dental staff is the foundation of a successful dental practice.

Make work fulfilling.

Encourage dental staff to not always say “yes” when it comes to tasks.

Give dental staff choices, allowing greater autonomy in their work.

Remember, employee turnover and burnout is preventable.


Dental practice growth initiatives
The best dental staffing practices attract the best dental candidates.

As a dental employer, you are now well prepped to take all your learnings from this guide and take action.

Whether you’re a dental organization looking to explore locum tenens dental staffing services or a dental provider looking for locum tenens dental jobs, MASC Medical is here to help. Simply connect with us.