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Are Dental Staffing Problems Keeping You Up at Night?

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1 min read

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Дек 08 2023

As the U.S. economy continues to recover from the business shocks of the COVID-19 pandemic, one thing is clear: employers are desperate for workers. From fast food restaurants to big box retailers, labor shortages are being felt across the country, and it’s not uncommon to see “help wanted” signs and long lines at many local businesses due to chronic understaffing. 

The dental industry is no different. A recent poll from the American Dental Association (ADA) Health Policy Institute found that 35.8% of owner dentists are recruiting dental assistants, 28.8% are seeking dental hygienists, and 26.5% are looking to hire administrative staff. More and more, it seems like there’s an ever-decreasing pool of candidates who actually apply for the job – one dentist compared trying to fill an assistant role at her office to “6 months of fishing in a lake with no fish.” 

While finding a good lead dental assistant is always hard for practice owners, low employee count at dental practices has been exacerbated by the pandemic, with many dental staff leaving the workforce due to early retirement or concerns about health and safety. This mass exodus of longtime front office staff can create operational headaches up and down the organizational ladder – impacting everyone from doctors and practice owners to CFOs and procurement managers. 

How employee turnover affects dental procurement

It can happen in an instant – you lose someone who has been with your dental practice for years. Maybe it’s Jamie, the lead dental assistant whose attention to detail was crucial to your clinical operations. Or Becky, the office manager who ran your practice like a well-oiled machine.

If that employee going out the front door is in charge of your supply ordering, there’s extra cause for worry – whenever the purchasing manager at a dental practice leaves, business operations and supply chain management at the practice are heavily impacted. 

Dental procurement, or the process of sourcing, procuring, and paying for dental supplies, is the life blood of any dental organization. Dental practices must have supplies in order to provide the patient care that supports their business. Without them, the business will fail to operate.

At most dental offices, supply purchasing duties generally fall on the lead dental assistant or office manager. Ordering supplies may be just one piece of their diverse skill set. But when a dental assistant or office manager leaves a dental practice, they take more than just their skill set with them – they also take their knowledge. 

Which products does the dentist like to use? Where can you find them at the best price? What is the best price? How often do you need to reorder supplies and how long will they take to arrive? Are you actually receiving the right products?

Your departing staff member may have supply purchasing down to a science, but in many cases this is specialized information that they alone possess. It’s not unheard of for purchasing managers to resort to handwritten Post-it notes and memorized lists to know the “where” and “how” to get dental supplies. 

Consider this: if the person who does all your supply purchasing were to leave today, what would happen? A new employee trying to learn all the little intricacies of your dental procurement operations can quickly rack up costs for your dental practice:

  • Overspending on products at the wrong price. As a direct cost, overspending on dental supplies is one of the easiest ways to hurt a practice’s bottom line.
  • Failing to order or purchasing the incorrect supplies. If the necessary supplies are not available prior to a patient’s appointment, the doctor cannot complete the procedure and the production (revenue) for the practice will suffer.
  • Taking too much time to order supplies. The longer it takes to order supplies, the more time that is taken away from productive, growth-oriented tasks. A lead dental assistant can’t be chairside if they’re busy navigating vendor catalogs, shopping for the right products, and filling out order after order. 
  • Spending too much time on training. The more complex your dental procurement operations, the more time that must be spent on training new staff, resulting in added inefficiencies.

Supply ordering software for dental practices

According to the ADA, more than 80% of owner dentists who are currently hiring are finding the recruitment of dental assistants and front office managers to be extremely or very challenging. At short-staffed dental practices it may feel like there’s barely enough time to keep up with all the inventory your office needs. Fortunately, technology is up to the challenge.

With a one-stop shop to procure supplies from all your vendors at once, dental procurement software like CureMint makes supply ordering easy. Now dental practices of all sizes can enjoy the benefits of having a centralized online system for ordering dental supplies – with multiple catalogs, shopping lists, and automations to help your staff find the right products in seconds. Above all else, an intuitive e-commerce storefront that requires minimal training will give your staff their time back so they can focus on what matters most – providing top quality patient care.

Interested in learning more about dental supply purchasing with CureMint? Sign up today for a free demo.

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