Building the Future of the Dental Workforce

By Andrew Smith, Executive Director of the ADSO

As the dental industry continues to recover from the COVID-19 pandemic, organizations are facing significant staffing challenges. While the demand for oral health care remains at an all-time high, the industry’s workforce level remains low, creating a unique challenge for dentistry in terms of providing access to care. 

These labor shortages, of course, go beyond immediate recruitment and retention. The dental support organization (DSO) model is designed to attract future talent – providing the necessary tools for individual dentists’ sustained growth and success. DSOs are also proactive in advocating for dental students in and outside of the practice, with benefits including access to proven technologies, strategic mentorship programs, networking opportunities, and a culture predicated on a healthy work-life balance. 

Increased work-life balance 

When making the jump from dental school to practicing, new graduates often encounter high startup costs, inaccessible growth opportunities, and an overflow of administrative tasks. According to the American Dental Education Association, 2020 dental school graduates with federal loans owed an average of nearly $305,000. DSOs play a critical role in helping alleviate these burdens of practice management by managing a wide array of responsibilities including procurement, marketing, human resources, compliance, IT and finance; enabling dentists to focus on what matters most: the health of their patients. Teams operating within a supported organization also spend less time on the administrative aspects of a practice, which ultimately improves the level of quality care they are able to provide patients.

Access to innovative technologies 

Partnering with a DSO also significantly reduces the overhead costs associated with operating a practice. For example, the integration of artificial intelligence (AI), fully integrated healthcare systems and other digital workflow processes that improve the patient experience require a great deal of resources and coordination, which, because of their unique infrastructure, DSOs are able to provide more readily, efficiently and effectively. Prioritizing innovation in this way also creates greater opportunities for individual growth, streamlines the administrative processes, and moves the dial forward for the dental industry as a whole. 

Enhanced professional development 

When partnering with a DSO, the dental staff has access to mentoring and networking opportunities. There is a large network of dental professionals who provide support and insight into their careers, serving as mentors for younger dentists, dental hygienists and dental assistants. With access to a widespread network, practices operate as a community and support collaboration, education and advocacy, elevating the industry and enriching oral health care.

Finally, on the topic of opportunities for networking and leadership development, the ADSO looks forward to seeing the future of the industry at the 2022 ADSO Summit in Austin, Texas from March 29 to April 1. During the Best Practice and Deep Dive Days, there will be unique opportunities for DSO leaders to connect with dental students, paving the path forward and creating A New Dawn for Dentistry. Visit the 2022 ADSO Summit to learn more about the premier dental industry event.