The COVID-19 pandemic negatively affected oral health care teams across the U.S. Beginning in March of 2020, dental care was considered non-essential health care, thereby canceling non-emergency dental procedures for several months. By June of 2020, four months into the pandemic, only one-third of dental offices were operating normally, while the remaining two-thirds were either closed or seeing far fewer patients.
The shut down of dental clinics, coupled with patients fearing for their safety when clinics reopened, resulted in dental practitioners being furloughed or permanently unemployed. Now, two years later, the long-term impacts on the dental health care workforce can be examined. The American Institute of Dental Public Health (AIDPH) used Bureau of Labor Statistics, Occupational Employment and Wage Statistics (OEWS) program survey results to:
- Evaluate trends and differences of the dental health care workforce before and after the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic.
- Assess the impact of dental health care worker (DHCW) shortages by state and geographic region.
An evaluation of survey results found:
- Loss of Dental Health Care Workers (DHCWs) will result in tax revenue and labor income decreases as well as shortages in Medicaid and Medicare provider networks.
- There are fewer DHCWs today than before the COVID-19 pandemic.
- While wages have slowly increased for DHCWs since 2020, rates remain comparatively low and may be driving workforce shortages.