How COVID-19 Has Changed Dental Staffing Forever and What You Can Do to Stay Ahead

by Trey Tepichin,

COVID-19 has affected many parts of our daily lives, including what it’s like to run or work in a dental practice. From thoroughly disinfecting every surface in the treatment room in between patients to changing tools so as few water droplets are distributed into the air as possible, dentistry today looks very different than it did in 2019.

To be successful in the new normal, you need to adapt to the current circumstances and overcome the challenges you face every day. It’s going to be a long time before daily life resembles what it did this time last year. Until then, here’s what you can do to stay ahead of the competition and thrive as a dental professional.

For dental practice owners

Switch to temp workers

During these uncertain times, you can never be sure if your appointment schedule will be overbooked or practically empty. The best way to make sure you have the correct number of staff available at all times, no matter how many or few patient appointments you have, is to work with temporary dental staff. 

Working with temp workers means you can hire additional help when your office is busy then cut back when things are quiet without suffering any repercussions. You only pay staff for the hours worked, helping you keep your staffing budget down while still providing quality care to your patients.

Hire additional RDHs

Even if you run a small practice and only usually employ one dental hygienist, now is a good time to consider hiring additional temporary RDHs. Despite how many dentists across Canada have been providing elective treatment since the end of May, there are still plenty of people delaying a trip to the dentist because they don’t have the disposable income to afford treatment or they’re anxious about contracting the disease inside a practice environment.

When these patients are ready to come into your practice, the treatments an RDH usually carries out are going to be in very high demand. Teeth cleanings, teeth whitenings and general checkups are just some of the procedures many patients will be asking for. The more hygienists you hire, the more patient appointments you’ll be able to accept.

Be flexible

Now is a great time to start accepting last-minute appointments, even if they’re something you’ve never considered before. After months of providing emergency-only treatment, it’s doubtful you’ll want to turn away a single patient. Taking appointments the evening before or even just hours before the patient is due in the practice is a great way to increase income and attract new patients.

Online staffing solutions like Cloud Dentistry can help you find dental professionals at a minute’s notice so you can provide your patients with the care they deserve without paying the high costs of full-time staff. You don’t need to wait days or weeks to get a response. Their live scheduling feature means you can check who is available and book them for exactly when you need their help. 

Expand your services

At a time when many dental practices are scaling back their offerings to keep costs down, you can help your business stand out by expanding your range of services instead. You don’t need to hire a full-time orthodontist or periodontist to offer a greater selection of treatments. Instead, hire a temporary specialist dentist when you have a patient who requires their services.

By working with temporary dentists, you don’t have to lose your patients to referrals, helping you increase your business’ revenue. You’re also more likely to retain more clients, since you can offer a broad range of treatments within your single practice. 

For dental professionals

Work for yourself

Working for just one dentist in a single dental practice is a dangerous thing to do, especially during these strange times. While job security is never guaranteed, one thing you can do to help protect your career is to switch from being an employee to an independent contractor.

When you work for yourself, you decide how many hours you work, what your work schedule looks like, which dental offices you work in and how much your hourly rate is. If you need more income, you can increase your earnings by working more hours. Just like if something happens in your life and you need to scale your hours back, you can do so because you’re in charge.

If you’ve got a permanent part-time position at a practice you don’t want to give up, you don’t have to. You can still work as an independent contractor on the side to get more money.

Be flexible

Some patients are cancelling appointments at a moment’s notice when fear gets the better of them. While others are making last-minute appointments when they finally come to terms with the need to have a treatment done they’ve been putting off for months. You can increase your chances of winning new positions as a dental professional by being flexible with your working hours.

Some practices will need an RDH or RDA just hours before the shift is set to begin. If you’re available and you’re willing to work with short notice, you’ll get ahead in times like these.

Get educated

Now more than ever dental practices are prioritising professionals who understand about infection prevention in a dental environment. If you can prove you’re knowledgeable in this area and can provide great value to a dental practice, you’re more likely to get hired than an average RDH or RDA.

To increase your chances of employment, do your best to expand your knowledge in this field in any way you can. There are plenty of excellent online resources which cover this topic in depth, from materials written by reliable organizations like the ADA and online courses to up-to-date webinars on infection control protocols and virtual conferences. You don’t even have to leave your house to expand your knowledge.

Keep pushing forward

When life gets turned upside down, it’s easy to focus on the negatives. But that won’t get you anywhere. Whether you’re a practice owner, RDH or RDA, the best thing you could do right now is push ahead and prepare yourself for a brighter future. Work on improving your practice, your patient care or your dentistry skills and when this is all over, you’ll be a better dental professional.

About the Author

Trey Tepichin (Harvard JD ’05) is co-founder & CEO of and a successful Boston attorney with numerous multimillion-dollar victories. Trey is Former teacher of economics at Harvard. Cloud Dentistry is not a dental temp agency it is a web and app-based marketplace where dental offices can message and book dental professionals on demand 24/7 without paying hourly markup fees.

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