Recruitment crisis will drive change in dentistry in 2022

Nigel Jones gives his predictions for dentistry in 2022 and points to the recruitment crisis as the main reason driving change.

Workforce issues in dentistry are not a new problem. They are however a worsening one that has been exacerbated by the combination of Brexit and Covid-19.

Anyone throwing a cursory glance at the numbers of dentists in the workforce wouldn’t necessarily realise this is the case. Figures show the number of individual dentists has been steadily rising over the years.

However, although there’s a lack of data around how many of those are full time equivalents (FTE), there’s a general consensus and anecdotal evidence that suggests the number of clinical hours has actually gone down. More people are pursuing flexible, part-time options.

So, while the numbers might look like they stack up, it could well be a good example of: ‘Lies, damned lies and statistics.’

And while there was no mass exodus following Brexit, many European dentists did return to their home countries. And not all of them returned to the UK.

Of those who did, many are finding it difficult to register as a dentist. Instead they are working as therapists and hygienists instead, adding to the workforce gap.

Low workforce supply

Then, to make matters worse, along came Covid-19 to compound the issue.

The pandemic caused many people to re-evaluate their lives. This has led to a sharp increase in early retirements and part-time working in dentistry and other professions.

All of this is leading to a big gap between high demand for dentistry and low supply of not just dentists but also associates and nurses.

That is a big driver of change for dentistry in 2022. Particularly in the NHS as competition to fill vacancies may well encourage workers into the private sector. It will further increase pressure within the NHS.

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