(The Center Square) – The Iowa Dental Board announced it is convening a work group to address workforce shortages Iowa dental offices are experiencing.
The news release said the state agency is specifically seeking input from the following dentistry professionals:
- Dentists from each of the IDA's district dental societies, particularly those who work with dental assistants who enter the profession through on-the-job training.
- Dental assistants from rural communities who entered the profession through on-the-job training.
- Dental assistants from rural communities who entered the profession through a formal course of study.
- Dental hygienists from rural communities
Iowa Dental Association Executive Director Laurie Traetow told The Center Square in an emailed statement Oct. 26 that the association is working with the board to find ways to make it easier for people to enter the dental assisting profession to address shortages Iowa dentists have reported of both dental assistants and dental hygienists.
“On a national scale, one in 12 dental hygienists dropped out of the workforce during the COVID-19 pandemic,” Traetow said. “In Iowa, the vast majority of dental assistants and 99% of dental hygienists are female, and we know that the COVID-19 pandemic has adversely impacted females more than males. While the dental assisting profession can be extremely rewarding, dentists looking to hire and retain dental assistants are facing an extremely competitive labor market in Iowa.”
In the American Dental Association Health Policy Institute’s October poll, which included 31 respondents from Iowa, 22.5% of rural dentistry practices said they “definitely” intend to hire more staff in the next three months while 26.1% said “maybe.” A May poll said 35.8% of owner dentists are recruiting dental assistants and 28.8% are seeking dental hygienists. About 66% of respondents to the May poll said it has been “extremely challenging” to hire dental hygienists compared with before the COVID-19 pandemic while about 59% said the same for hiring dental assistants. About 70% of practice owners who responded said they have increased pay for the positions.
Iowa Dental Board Executive Director Jill Stuecker told The Center Square in an emailed statement Oct. 26 that the work group will use the feedback to determine how they can address the shortages through regulations.
While dental hygienists and dental assistants both operate under direction from dentists, they have different roles. Stuecker said dental assistants help keep patients comfortable and offices sterile. Under supervision, dental assistants who are Certified level 2 providers can place amalgam, adhesive restorative materials and intracoronal temporal fillings after dentists prepare the tooth, according to a Dental Assisting National Board 2020 description of duties. After dentists induce patients with nitrous oxide analgesia, dental assistants can monitor them. According to Iowa Code Section 153, dental hygienists’ duties include performing oral prophylaxis, processing radiographs and preparing diagnostic tests for dentists,
The board anticipates scheduling three or four meetings from 1 to 2 p.m. Fridays in November and December via Zoom. Registration by Oct. 28 is required and can be done by emailing Iowa Dental Board secretary Amy Jackson at Amy.Jackson@iowa.gov. Those interested in participating are provide their name, the name of their practice and the category listed above that applies to them.