Has your dental office been experiencing staffing shortage issues that have been impacting healthcare organizations for the past few years? 

The National Association of Locum Tenens Organizations (NALTO) states that 90% of healthcare facilities in the U.S. use locum tenens providers. A locum tenens dentist or hygienist can help you continue providing patient care and avoid losing revenue when a dentist or hygienist takes a leave of absence or you enter a particularly busy season.

Read more about the state of dental staffing in our free e-book, and discover tips for growing your dental practice.

What Are Locum Tenens Dentists?

Locum tenens means “to hold one’s place” in Latin. In dental staffing, the term refers to a dentist, hygienist or even dental assistant who temporarily works at a clinic in the place of another team member. The locum tenens dentist could work on a short- or long-term basis, providing coverage for vacations, leaves of absence, illness, or staffing shortages.

Locum tenens dentistry jobs provide flexible, temporary employment options that many dental medicine professionals prefer over permanent positions. Interim contracts offer perks like flexibility and competitive compensation, but a locum tenens dentist might have to be away from their family and find their own health insurance, retirement plan, etc. 

The Benefits of Locum Tenens Dental Staffing

Locum tenens dentists and hygienists are rising in popularity as a solution for dentistry staffing shortages, ensuring dental practices can maintain their revenue streams and continuity of care. However, not every dental office will benefit from a locum tenens dentist, so it’s essential to know the pros and cons of this staffing solution.

The main benefits of locum tenens dental staffing are as follows:

Filling Gaps in Staffing

As more dental jobs become available without people to fill them, practices are struggling to cover gaps in dentistry staffing. A lack of staff could result in higher wait times for routine dental services and dental surgery, forcing some patients to seek treatment at another practice. 

Reducing Staffing Costs

Instead of having salaries, locum tenens dentists typically bill in two ways: per diem or by production. The per diem option is a daily rate, while billing based on production involves paying the locum tenens dentist a percentage of the revenue they generate for the practice. 

While locum tenens dentists can be expensive, the costs are typically less than those associated with recruiting, hiring, and training a new dentist. Contracting a temporary dentist allows you to take your time finding a dental professional who perfectly fits your job description, avoiding turnover costs. 

Providing Continuity of Care

When a dentist or hygienist resigns or takes an extended leave of absence, hiring a locum tenens dentist or hygienist can help you maintain continuity of care for dental patients. Ensuring continuing care improves patient experience and satisfaction, helping you build patient loyalty.

Gaining New Perspectives and Expertise

The locum tenens dentist you hire could have spent years working as a general dentist, gaining extensive knowledge in services that many of your patients need, such as extractions, implants, dentures, and other procedures. 

Locum tenens dentists might also offer valuable insights they gained from working at other practices to help you improve your business operations and customer experience.

The Disadvantages of Locum Tenens Dental Staffing

While locum tenens dentists can provide a helpful answer to staffing issues at your practice, it’s not always the best solution for every dental office. The following are a few disadvantages to look out for if you’re considering locum tenens staffing solutions:

Lack of Consistent Care

Locum tenens dentists are temporary, meaning your patients could experience inconsistent care when the dentist inevitably leaves your practice. Consistency of care can provide a better experience for patients, partly because seeing the same dentist for every appointment allows them to build rapport with their care provider.

Risk of Lower-quality Care

Hiring a permanent dentist involves a lengthy onboarding process and credentialing, whereas locum tenens staffing is typically immediate, with at most a few days of training for the temporary dentist to get acclimated to your practice. 

By skipping over these crucial steps, there’s a risk of the locum tenens dentist not meeting your organization’s standards for quality of care.

Locum Tenens Costs

When there’s a shortage of a specific job type, the locum tenens workers who fill those positions might ask for much higher rates. This means you could pay a lot of money to your locum tenens dentist, and the costs quickly add up the longer they stay at your practice. 

You might want to conduct a costs vs. benefits analysis to determine whether choosing locum tenens is better than pursuing permanent placement opportunities.

Other Ways To Ease Workloads With a Smaller Dental Staff

If your staff is struggling because of the healthcare worker shortage, you can help lessen the burden of increased workloads by optimizing your business practices, including repetitive, everyday tasks that take away time you could be spending with patients.

Invest in Technology That Simplifies and Automates Tasks

Dental software can help you modernize your practice and save you time and money by providing tools to do the following:

  • Automate appointment reminders
  • Offer online and text-to-pay billing options
  • Allow patients to schedule appointments online
  • Send follow-up texts when you miss a call
  • Monitor your online reviews
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Train Office Staff To Cover Some of the Doctors’ Tasks

If your dentists are responsible for tasks other staff could complete with some basic training, such as getting information from patients at the beginning of their appointments, consider delegating those tasks accordingly. Such a shift in responsibilities gives dentists more time to talk to patients, perform dental procedures, and complete other essential duties. 

Streamline Your Dental Practice With Weave

Weave is a simple software that provides dental practices with one platform for texting, phones, payments, scheduling, reviews, and more. With Weave, your office can simplify and automate tasks like payment reminders, missed call texts, scheduling, and billing, giving your staff more time to focus on patients.

Your practice might not need a locum tenens dentist, but optimizing your business operations never hurts. Try a free Weave demo today.