Retention Crisis: Why Dental Nurses are Leaving the Profession

We’ve all been hearing it in the news, the latest crisis is a shortage in everything. Shortages in petrol, food and now we have a shortage across the UK in staff across multiple industries. Whether it’s HGV drivers, doctors or dental staff, employers are struggling to fill their empty roles. The real question is why when we have more and more people studying vocational subjects and graduating with all the skills necessary. The real issue isn’t that people aren’t looking for work, the issue lies in retention. People are leaving faster than they can join.

An explanation could be that there has been a shift in public perception and realisation about what a good career entails. The pandemic opened our eyes to the real meaning of what matters. People want flexibility, better support and opportunities to grow. Employers who fail to offer this will simply lose staff who can find better conditions elsewhere. So why are people leaving the dental nursing profession and what can be done to stop it?


Dental nurses spin plates to ensure a practice runs efficiently. Not only are they spending a lot of their time assisting in surgery, but they’re maintaining a steady ship at the practice, working directly with clients and striving to ensure that everything is scheduled and running efficiently. It only takes the loss of one staff member to upset the balance. If that staff member isn’t replaced, the same workload is dumped on remaining staff increasing the pressure. Increased pressure leads to burnout and staff sickness, which continues to catalyse the pressure on other staff. The staff that remain want to be recognised for their hard work yet the salaries are some of the lowest in the health and care profession.

Without nurses, a practice cannot function and with their specialised knowledge, they’re becoming more and more difficult to replace. Staff will stay if they feel appreciated and are remunerated. Better pay, better holidays and more staff to balance the workload will ease the situation massively.

Stress and Sickness

Dental nursing is a hard job, there’s no denying that. If you’re not assisting during complex procedures then you’re dealing with difficult clients who can make you feel inches tall. Like in most care professions, the emotional toll is incredibly high and it can be difficult not to take the stress back home with you. It’s important that colleagues check in on one another. COVID-19 was particularly tough on dental staff and it’s everyone’s individual responsibility to make sure that they and their colleagues are ok.

Feeling stuck

It’s important that we all get the opportunity to feel like our career is going somewhere. If there is little opportunity for growth, nurses will look elsewhere, whether that’s at another practice or another profession entirely, if staff needs aren’t accomodated, people won’t take

much convincing to leave. With a relatively low starting salary, nurses need to be compensated for their hard work as much as possible. Supporting nurses to develop their own future path can be beneficial in more ways than one.

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