Dentist offices see surge of appointments amid staffing shortages

Published: Aug. 23, 2022 at 6:44 PM PDT
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BEAVERTON, Ore. (KPTV) - After two years of a pandemic, many people are looking to freshen up their smile with a teeth cleaning but dentist offices are having trouble keeping up with the demand.

Dr. Hai Pham is a pediatric dentist in Beaverton and he’s experiencing a surge of patients in his office. However, he said there’s another factor at play, dentist offices are short-staffed. The American Dental Association reports since the start of the pandemic, dentist offices have been struggling with staffing. Granted, the organization said there’s been a push to hire more but staffing problems were exasperated over the last two years. Doctor Pham said his employees are feeling the stress from high demand and low supply.

“I won’t lie, we’re definitely getting burnt out and feeling that pressure of needing more help,” Dr. Pham said.

Dr. Pham said on average patients are waiting four to six weeks for an appointment. FOX 12 has heard from some in the public they’re waiting longer. There’s also a risk of appointments being canceled because of a Dental Assistant or Dental Hygienist calling out sick. Under guidelines from the Oregon Health Authority, dentist offices and all medical facilities are still following strict COVID-19 guidelines. So even if someone in the dentist’s office has the sniffles, they must go through a COVID-19 screening before returning to work.

“Patients and the families have been very understanding because they understand that were under the same stresses as all the other industries are facing shortages,” Dr. Pham said.

FOX 12′s assignment editor Jerison Poe is one of those people who had their appointment canceled. He was supposed to have the day off to get his teeth cleaned Tuesday, but plans changed because of staffing issues.

“I made an appointment about six months ago and I think a couple of weeks ago, they called me saying they didn’t the staff to see me,” Poe said.

Now he said he is scrambling to find an appointment.

“I just don’t know what to do because that was my dentist the last few years,” Poe said. “I’ve relocated to here in Beaverton and now I’m just trying to find anyone that will take me or even has an opening.”

But as people like Poe hunt for openings, Dr. Pham said to be patient. If you’re trying to book an appointment get on the cancelation list because that can get you in faster.

“I highly recommend planning ahead,” Dr. Pham said. “You’re not going to get in the same day or week at times and just being patient with offices and the dental team because everybody is working so hard to try and get everybody in and taken care of.”