Dental staffing agency disadvantages are harming practices and professionals

Last revised: February 25, 2020
Author: Nicola Quinn

For decades, dental practices and dental professionals have been getting a raw deal when it comes to filling staff vacancies and looking for temporary work. For any dental practice, finding the right person to fill in when one of your regular members of staff is away is a challenge which can often waste considerable amounts of time and $1000s each year.

It’s no piece of cake for freelance dental professionals, either. They’ve got to stand out in a sea of almost identical faces and instead of taking control of their careers like they envisioned, they’re often forced to hand over control of their professional lives to the temp agency.

If you’re still using a dental staffing agency to find temporary work as a dental professional or to hire staff to fill gaps in your practice, it’s about time you moved on.

Staffing agency markups are excessive 

Dental staffing agencies earn a profit by adding a markup onto each worker’s hourly rate and by charging practices high permanent placement fees. This translates into dental practices paying over-the-odds and dental professionals working for less than they’re worth. These are just two ways traditional dental staffing agencies are a waste of money. There are plenty more

Why this is bad for dental practices: Studies show that a typical dental temp agency mark-up is 12-50% of the worker’s hourly rate. This means if you pay a temp dental hygienist $45 per hour, the temp agency’s profit margin is anywhere from $5.40 per hour to $22.50 per hour. The markup varies by agency (and it’s incredibly difficult to shop around for the best price because rates are very rarely published online) but you can be certain the rate will be high

Why this is bad for dental professionals: While dental temp agencies might draw you in with promises of freedom and control over your career, the reality isn’t as great. Most dental staffing agencies determine your hourly rate and take a percentage of it in the form of a markup. Using the example above, if your hourly rate is $45, you could be receiving as little as $22.50 — and that’s before any tax deductions have been made.

Sometimes agencies give you a small fraction of their profit margin back in the form of a “bonus” for your good work. But the truth is that all the money was yours to begin with — you earned it and you deserve it.

If you were to provide your services as an independent contractor without the middle man, you could receive your full rate while still being competitive.  

Permanent placement fees

Staffing agency markups are just one of the ways temp dental agencies earn money. They also charge high fees if you find a dental professional through their agency that you want to hire permanently. Known as temp-to-perm fees, these rates can be as much as 20-25% of the worker’s first year’s salary

They’re a waste of time

When you work with dental hygiene placement agencies, finding staff to fill temp jobs or permanent positions can take a lot of time. Equally, as a dental professional, you can find yourself going through prolonged periods without any temp work while the agency decides what’s right for you.  

Why this is bad for dental practices: It’s an overused phrase, but it’s true. Time is money. And time wasted is money wasted. When you have absences in your dental practice due to vacation, family leave or personal reasons, it’s important you fill those staffing gaps as quickly as possible. You don’t want to waste time waiting for third parties to get back to you. You need to be investing your time in helping your patients and marketing your business. 

Absent dentists, dental hygienists, dental auxiliary staff or dental receptionists mean your practice isn’t able to meet its full potential. If you’re understaffed for even just one day, you might have to cancel appointments and risk annoying patients and potentially dragging out their pain.

An inability to meet demand is bad for business. Cancelled appointments, long wait times and overworked staff not only keep your practice from growing, but they could result in lost patients and negative reviews for everyone to see.

As Jacob Puhl of Firegang Dental Marketing puts it, “Your practice’s reputation in your local community could mean the difference between having a successful dental practice and having one that suffers from year to year.”

Traditional dental temp agencies waste your time by not allowing you to directly contact the dental professionals you’re interested in hiring, acting as a middleman to pass along messages and often sending the staff they think are appropriate with little regard for what’s best for your practice. This results in a colossal waste of time and money. 

Why this is bad for dental professionals: After you’ve applied and been accepted by a dental temp agency, all you can do is wait for the job offers to come rolling in. This could take days, weeks, months…you really can’t tell. 

When you eventually do get a placement, you’re given very little information about it, so you don’t really find out if you’ve made a good choice until you show up. This poor process often results in people being matched with jobs and practices that just don’t suit them, creating a huge time suck for everyone. 

Time spent waiting around, hoping to receive an email about a potential placement is a waste of time. But so is finding yourself working at dental practices that aren’t a good fit. Your time would be much better spent building your business, growing your brand and reaching out to potential clients you know you’d be a great match with. 

You rarely get what you want

dental staffing agencies don’t pride themselves on only working with the best dental practices and the finest dental professionals. They provide staff for any dental practice that approaches them and they fill their rosters with anyone who meets a list of minimum qualifications.

As a result, dental practice owners can never be sure about the quality of staff they’re going to be working with, just as dental professionals can never be certain about the grade of dental practice they’re going to be sent to. 

Why this is bad for dental practices: While there are plenty of dedicated professionals working through temp agencies, there’s always a risk of being sent someone who just doesn’t have the right attitude or presentation for positive patient contact. Here’s a list of traits a successful dental hygienist should have, according to the American Dental Education Association. 

Certain temp agencies let you look at a selection of qualified professionals and short-list a few. But even if you do get to choose your own temp, you won’t get to talk directly with them in real time. All you get to do is make your request, cross your fingers and hope for the best.

Some agencies don’t even send you a list of dental professionals which match your criteria so you can narrow the choices down. Some simply make the choice on your behalf and send someone, all without considering what’s best for your practice or your business.

Why this is bad for dental professionals: Dental staffing agencies give you almost no control when it comes to where you’re working. And since the agency controls all communication, rarely will you be able to pose questions to the dental practice owner or anyone who works there before accepting a job.

Going into a new placement without knowing anything about it can be risky. If the practice isn’t a good match for you, you’ll feel unmotivated and will struggle to give the job your all. This could potentially result in your temporary boss leaving you a bad review for everyone to see. If you’d been able to talk to someone at the practice first, you would have discovered that it wasn’t a good fit for you and you wouldn’t have accepted the job. 

Dental temp agencies don’t boost your business

When you work with a dental temp agency, there’s no way to build your own brand. The agency is more concerned with ticking boxes and increasing their profit rate than helping you grow your business. This goes for both dental practice owners and dental professionals. 

Why this is bad for dental practices: In the same way that you never know who’s going to be sent to your practice when you hire dental professionals from a staffing agency, the independent contractors listed by the agency don’t know much about you when they receive a job offer. 

The most qualified and experienced general dentists, specialist dentists, dental hygienists, dental assistants and office staff are constantly in high demand. To attract their attention, you need to appeal to them. However, when you’re just a name on a list, there’s no way to tempt the best dental professionals by showing them how great your office is or how fantastic your team is.

Why this is bad for dental professionals: Although dental professionals are always in high demand, you’ve got to really stand out from the crowd to catch the eye of the best dental practices. 

Just like dental office owners don’t have much chance to show off the benefits of working within their practice when they use a temp dental staffing agency, dental professionals don’t have the opportunity to show off their expertise or experience. Sometimes you’ll get to create a basic profile, but sometimes you’ll just be a job title next to a price tag on a list. 

Even if you’ve got years of schooling, loads of experience and plenty of enthusiasm, you’re never going to get the placements you want unless you can show practice owners why you’re better than all the competition. If you genuinely want a fruitful career as a freelance dental professional, working with a dental staffing agency just isn’t going to cut it. 

It’s time to get out of the dental staffing agency rut

Ready to ditch the temp staffing agency and take back control?

Where once you didn’t have any other option to find temp dental staff for your practice or temp placements as a dental professional, you do today. Now there’s an online cloud-based platform that gives you the freedom to grow your business into what you’ve always dreamed of. 

Cloud Dentistry makes hiring and finding work quick, easy and affordable for dental practice owners and dental professionals.

Dental practices, Cloud Dentistry is the key to hiring success

By joining Cloud Dentistry, dental practices benefit from direct access to 1000s of dental professionals all over the country. Via this innovative platform, you’ve got the freedom to search for the right professional to suit your business and make your own hiring decisions. You can view the hourly rate, availability, qualifications, experience and reviews of each dental professional, all in real time without any waiting.

Dental practices can take advantage of everything Cloud Dentistry has to offer for a low fee which will be charged once every 30 days. We don’t charge any staffing agency markups like you’re used to paying, neither do we charge any permanent hire fees if you decide you want to take on someone you’ve found through our platform on a long-term basis.

Dental professionals, Cloud Dentistry is the solution to job independence

Whether you’re a dentist, hygienist, someone who assists the dental operator or a dental specialist, you can create your own professional profile, set your hourly rate, display your current availability, browse job listings in real time and communicate directly with dental practices for free. Since we don’t add any markup onto your prices, you’re free to charge the hourly rate you deserve, while still remaining competitive.

As a dental professional, you can use Cloud Dentistry to work for yourself and build your brand. Use the platform as your online base and stand out from the crowd by showing off your qualifications, experience and reviews. We give you the freedom to decide what your time is worth — not what a placement agency says it’s worth.

Cloud Dentistry helps you build your business

If you’re ready to ditch the middleman and take back control of your business, Cloud Dentistry is here to help you get started. Create your free profile now and start taking advantage of today’s modern cloud-based staffing solution.


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Zero upfront fees for dental offices. for specialists, dentists, hygienists, and dental assistants. Free