Oral Health Group

Staff Shortage: Yet Another Challenge to Overcome

March 15, 2022
by Marina Polonsky, DDS, MSc

Just when we thought that we had the PPE shortage issue under control, had put up barriers, air purifiers and made sure our patients felt safe to come back to the office for treatment, here comes yet another hurdle we must overcome – NO STAFF!

What happened to all the assistants and hygienists who used to send resumes, asking for jobs, willing to accept part time positions in multiple offices, just to have enough hours per week to pay the bills? Some decided to retire early at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, others decided that working with aerosols is too dangerous and found new employment outside of the dental field. Colleges offering RDA and RDH training were not able to graduate their 2020 and 2021 classes on time due to the restrictions and the inability of the new grads to work with patients to satisfy their minimal graduation requirements. Some colleges even closed or went out of business.


Here in Ottawa, our nation’s capital, we have another problem: all our bilingual staff sooner or later ends up applying for the government jobs in order to secure more benefits and job security and retirement income. Small businesses, like dental offices, cannot compete with everything a government job has to offer. We can only say: “You will be bored there. Dentistry is fun and exciting and fast paced, patients’ interactions are both challenging and rewarding at the same time.”

The tables have turned! My office had to lose a wonderful hygienist due to medical condition which prevented her from sitting for any length of time – she was in pain and her doctor advised her to look for another career. After advertising and setting up 3 interviews with new graduates, I realized that I am not interviewing them, rather they are interviewing me and the office.

They demand a starting salary which I have never heard of for a new grad with zero experience, with convenient hours, close to home, and if your office does not have the latest bells and whistles, then forget it.

Another hygienist was offered an extra $10/hour and left just to realize that more money perhaps comes with more issues: getting to know new groups of co-workers, patients, dentists, and management. Sometimes more money is not everything and the grass is not always greener on the other side. This begs a question: is it ethical to poach staff from another dental office by offering significant raises, signing bonuses and/or tuition paid? Of course, if your staff is happy, they are not looking for a new position, but it is difficult to turn down a $10/hr raise or $10,000 in your pocket. And what are you supposed to do as a manager or practice owner if your hygienist comes to you and says: “If you can match the offer, I’ll stay, if not then here is my two-week notice”?

What will happen in a couple of years when this situation stabilizes with more new grads looking for jobs again? Will we have to let go of the staff members who took advantage of the current shortage to secure an unfair raise?

I would like to continue this discussion further with Dr. James Younger, my UofT’99 classmate and founder and CEO of TempStars. Maybe he can shed some light on my concerns and offer some, if not solutions, then at least words of wisdom. (Dr. Younger article)

About the Editor

Marina Polonsky graduated from the University of Toronto with the Dean’s Gold Medal of Achievement, and is a member of Omega Kappa Upsilon Honour Dental Society and Alpha Omega International Dental Fraternity. Since 1999, Dr. Polonsky maintains a private general practice in Ottawa, Canada, with focus on multi-disciplinary treatment utilizing lasers of different wavelengths. Dr. Polonsky holds a Mastership with WCLI (World Clinical Laser and Imaging) Institute, Mastership in Diode and Erbium lasers from AALZ (Aachen Dental Laser Center), Master of Science in Lasers in Dentistry degree from RWTH University in Aachen, Germany. She holds Advanced Proficiency Certificate and Mastership Certificate with ALD (Academy of Laser Dentistry) and is a recognized member of the ALD Speaker Bureau. She is a founder of the Canadian Dental Laser Institute (CDLI). She is a KOL and a Clinical Mentor for Biolase Technologies Inc. and has been involved in the development of the newest all-tissue laser system, Waterlase Express. Dr. Polonsky is the author of multiple scientific papers, reviews and case reports on the uses of lasers in dentistry, she serves on the editorial advisory boards for JLAD (Journal of Laser-Assisted Dentistry) and LIDS (Lasers in Dental Science) by Springer

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