New research demonstrates dental assistants’ impact on bottom line

Dental assistants are an integral part of dental practices and clinics, but until now, there has been no definitive data quantifying the value dental assistants bring to the bottom line.

Today, the Dental Assisting National Board (DANB) and the DALE Foundation published new research that demonstrates the financial impact of dental assistants on dental practice productivity and the high cost of dental assistant turnover. In fact, those costs could add up to more than $100,000 per year.

The research reveals that dental assistants bring tangible, financial value to dental practices and clinics, and 94% of respondents state that dental assistants help improve patient retention. The data also shows that increasing dental assistant pay can ultimately increase dental practice profitability.

The results reflect responses from dental team leaders responsible for the staffing, scheduling, billing, and overall financial management of dental practices, including dentists, dental office managers, and practice administrators. Respondents represent all 50 states and Washington, D.C., in both urban and rural regions.


The cost of dental assistant vacancies

Expenses related to dental assistant turnover and unfilled positions are cumulative and include the direct costs of advertising and recruiting, as well as indirect costs such as training and orientation, loss of productivity, and reduced patient volume. When dental assistant positions are vacant, dental practices experience both short- and long-term negative financial implications.

When a dental assistant is out of the office:

  • Nearly 1 in 4 dental practices will decrease or reschedule patient visits. As a result, dental practices see fewer patients and experience a 6% decrease in average daily revenue.
  • About half of all dental practices will reassign the dental assistant’s task to other team members. Most often, these tasks are delegated to another dental assistant or the dentist, the role with the highest labor cost.

When a dental assistant position is vacant:

  • The cost to fill an open dental assistant role is 25% of the assistant’s annual pay.
  • It takes approximately 2.5 months to fill a vacant dental assistant position, and dental practices spend an average of 1-2 months or more training new dental assistants.
  • The average at-risk revenue of a vacant dental assistant position is more than $21,000 over the course of the role’s vacancy.
  • If the dental practice had an open dental assistant position for a full year, it could potentially lose out on nearly $110,000 in revenue and incur $30,000 to almost $60,000 in additional labor cost due to other team members taking on additional tasks.

Strategies to reduce turnover and increase bottom lines

There are clear financial costs to vacant dental assistant positions, and hiring to fill open roles is more challenging now due to the ongoing shortage of qualified dental assistants. Specialty practices and clinics in rural environments face additional challenges.

Research data indicates that increasing dental assistant pay by 15% will reap financial returns. By increasing wages, dental practices can mitigate dental assistant turnover, reduce associated hiring and training costs, maintain productivity levels, and preserve at-risk revenue.

Dental leaders can use the retention calculator and other toolkit resources to help their practices evaluate the costs and returns based on their practice’s financial data.


About the research

The Dental Assisting National Board (DANB) and the DALE Foundation conducted the research project with consulting firm Global Skills X-Change. The survey was distributed in December 2023 through several partner organizations, including the American Association of Dental Office Management, the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry, the National Network for Oral Health Access, and other contact lists. Survey respondents included dentists, dental office managers, and practice administrators from every U.S. state, including urban and rural regions. Respondents also represented a mix of general and specialty practices, as well as private practices, dental support organizations (DSOs), and nonprofit/public clinics. More than 560 responses were received and analyzed, with a 95% confidence level and 5-6% margin of error.