Janine Greyling

Five Ways To Overcome Skills Shortages In Your Dental Practice


Dental Practices stand or fall on the quality of their people – and if your Dental Practice can’t recruit enough Dental staff with the right...

Dental Practices stand or fall on the quality of their people – and if your Dental Practice can’t recruit enough Dental staff with the right level of skills and experience, that’s potentially a serious problem.

Unfortunately, research suggests this is a common problem for small and medium-sized Dental Practices in the UK today.

In one study published last year by the British Chambers of Commerce, more than two-thirds of SMEs said they were struggling to recruit sufficient numbers of skilled staff. This year, the Federation of Small Businesses has warned that SMEs are suffering more than larger businesses from the skills gap – and that many are missing out on growth opportunities as a result.

Dental Recruit Networks (DRNs) own research echoes such warnings. Nearly 80% of Dental Practices see skills shortages as a problem for their Practices, according to recent findings from DRNs Barometer – a quarterly survey canvassing the opinion of Dental Practice owners and managers. Further, 96% say they worry about whether they’ll be able to recruit staff with the right skills this year.

One problem is that the UK does not seem to be producing sufficient numbers of workers with the skills that employers need: the Government-backed UK Commission for Employment and Skills said recently that too many younger people lack technical ability and qualifications – but also that many don’t have basic work skills.

However, it’s not just supply shortages that are causing problems. In particular, demand for Dental Nurses and Dentists has increased considerably alongside the recovery of the UK’s economy from the pandemic. This is coupled with the fact that many European Dental Staff have NOT returned from their native country post Brexit and post pandemic. 

Faced with supply and demand issues, how do Dental Practices confront skills shortages? In practice, there are a number of potential coping mechanisms:


1. Invest in training

Some smaller Dental Practices understandably feel they don’t have the resources to meet the cost of training; either the cash to pay for training or the depth of staffing to release people for courses. But if your Dental Practice is suffering from skills shortages, ignoring training may be a false economy – it’s likely to be easier to train existing staff than to take on new employees. If your finances don’t currently leave room for training budgets, investigating new sources of funding could be the answer.


2. Expand the search

If you can’t find the right people, it’s possible you’re not looking in the right places. Experiment with new approaches to recruitment – that might mean anything from changing your recruitment agency to advertising in new places, attending job fairs and putting the word out on social media. Keep your website up-to-date with current vacancies, but don’t assume good quality candidates will find you; being proactive is key.


3. Consider taking on apprentices

Research conducted last year by DRN found that Dental Practices were often reluctant to take on apprentices or trainees, but the Government is making a concerted effort to persuade employers to do more in this area. It now offers financial assistance to companies that take on young apprentices and has promoted the use of training bodies and other industry schemes that can help reduce red tape. An apprentice may not solve your Dental Practices immediate skills shortage, but can be an economical way of training people for the future.


4. Rethink the Dental workforce

More than a million people over the age of 65 are now working on a part-time or temporary basis. Such Dental staff can be an excellent way to bring skills and experience into your Dental Practice, even if you don’t offer them full-time and permanent contracts. Not only do such workers provide expertise that may otherwise be lacking, but they can also play a valuable role mentoring less experienced staff.


5. Focus on Dental staff retention

If your Dental Practice is struggling to find new talent, it can’t afford to lose the knowledgeable workers it already has. Successful Dental Practices work hard at creating a culture that encourages people to stay. That doesn’t have to mean more pay – flexible working, or recognition through increased annual leave, for instance, can be just as attractive to some. We will be releasing a detailed white paper on this shortly. Stay tuned. 


Do you need help plugging a skills shortgage gap?

Perhaps you are a Dental Practice needing staff, or a candidate looking for a Dental Practice that Invests in training and focuses on Staff Rentention.

Get in touch with us today to see how we can help: