Dental assistants: Before signing on with a temp agency, consider the costs

As a dental assistant, your work affects countless lives. You support the dental health of the community while earning money for yourself and the dental practices you serve. But all that is only meaningful if you’re happy in your job. If you’re looking for a great dental-assistant position, a dental temp agency may seem like the logical next step.

Working for a temp agency seems like an attractive prospect, especially if you’re having trouble finding the right position. In a 2003 study published by Cornell University in Industrial and Labor Relations Review, researchers Susan N. Houseman, Arne L. Kalleberg, and George A. Erickcek found that “employers increasingly turned to temporary help agencies in tight labor markets largely because of difficulties in filling vacancies.” They also noted other advantages for employers, including efficiency in matching and cost savings.

But what about advantages for workers? There’s no denying that there are some positive aspects of dental staffing firms, but there are many disadvantages to consider as well—especially when there are better options. By resigning yourself to working for a temp agency, you could be missing out on a lot.

Disadvantages of working with a dental temp agency

The pitfalls of working for a temp agency will really get you down.

You earn less.

Whether you have one year of experience or a decade, a dental staffing agency sets your rates for you, and they take a cut of the money you earn. That means you’re taking home less than a dental assistant working outside of an agency. You might even be making below the average starting salary.

The difference can add up to hundreds or even thousands of dollars over the course of a year. For some people, it’s worth the pay cut for the extra flexibility that temping has to offer them. For others, it feels like a punishment for being available on short notice when other people are out sick. Often, it’s like you’ve taken on a second-rate job, just because you like having a more flexible schedule.

You don’t choose where you work.

Relying on a dental temp agency to assign you work from day to day means you’re at their mercy when it comes to your place of employment. You may find yourself filling in at a dental office that you don’t like. Maybe it’s bad management, time constraints, or just the dentist’s attitude. While temp assignments aren’t always horror stories, it does happen. In a 2011 article for Huffington Post, writer Laura Bassett reports on some workers’ painful dealings with the temp agencies that were supposed to be helping them.

Although you’re technically free to accept or reject jobs as you wish, it’s hard to know much about the practice until you arrive for work. You may feel forced into taking jobs you’re not sure about due to a scarcity of work or pressure to stay on the temp agency’s roster.

It’s hard on your schedule.

According to Dental Assisting National Board, Inc., dental assisting is great for people who desire flexibility in scheduling. About one third of dental assistants work part time, and many divide their time among multiple practices. But even if you’re looking for part-time work or want to take advantage of the flexible scheduling temping has to offer, it helps to have some predictability.

One of the biggest temp agency downsides is the short notice that staff get when it comes to landing a temporary job. Instead of being able to plan in advance, you’re often in the dark as to whether you’ll have work on a particular day. It’s common for a dental staffing agency to call at five in the morning after learning of a vacancy. If you’re just out of school, this might not be a big deal. For those with families, other jobs or classes to work around, it can be impossible to work this way.

It’s hard to stand out.

As a temp working for an agency, you’re just a name on a list. The agency’s priority is filling jobs, not helping you find an ideal match.

Temp agencies often see even their best workers as little more than a commodity. In her book Temps: The Many Faces of the Changing Workplace, Jackie Krasas Rogers presents a research-based analysis of the status of temporary work and reports the personal experiences of temp workers. One anecdote reveals what happens when a temp worker is treated as a stopgap: “On several occasions, Bernice Katz had an assignment end abruptly and was not informed by either the agency or the client so she could seek work elsewhere.” Even workers who receive placements can get lost in the shuffle.

Another con of working with a dental staffing agency is that you miss out on potential employers. Certain practices choose not to hire from dental assistant temp agencies because they feel that temps are people who can’t keep a normal job—even though that isn’t the case! Making a temp agency your primary source of work could limit your job prospects.

Chin up. There is a better way.

There are so many cons to using a dental-assistant temp agency. It’s impersonal, old-fashioned, expensive and time consuming. But you don’t have to resign yourself to just being a name on a list. Instead, consider Cloud Dentistry, a high-tech alternative that takes job matching to the next level.

In a Forbes article about the mistakes of young job seekers, Susan Adams gives this advice: “People find jobs through people they know, rather than through advertisements. If you see a listing for a job, try to find a personal connection to the employer and use that as your entry point.” It’s sound advice, but it’s not always possible. Fortunately, today’s technology makes it easier than ever to talk directly to potential employers and form a personal connection yourself.

You keep what you earn.

Cloud Dentistry believes that keeping the process simple makes it more affordable and inviting for everyone involved. Since there’s no middleman to pay, there’s no markup on your hourly rate. You can set your own rate and keep what you earn. When you demonstrate your value through your profile and communications with employers, dental practices feel confident in your abilities and are happy to pay you a fair rate.

You make your own choices.

Cloud Dentistry allows you to navigate the job matching process for yourself, giving you control. The matching platform allows dental professionals to post their qualifications, their days available and even the specific hours and locations they want. And because communication and job matching happen in real time, you can get jobs on the fly or fill your schedule in advance.

Dental assistants, hygienists, dental therapists, dentists and specialists can network and provide their services under specific criteria. You have freedom to set your availability, your rate and even the geographic location that you want to work in. And you can see exactly which provider you’ll be working with. That way, you don’t have to endure any unknowns regarding your workplace. Employers love it, too, because they can learn about you before you start the job.

Build your brand online and grow your career.

Cloud Dentistry is more than a professional network; it’s an online platform that puts you in control of your dental-assisting business. Your profile is the perfect place to display your work history, skills and reviews online, making you more visible and more interesting to potential employers. With real-time messaging, you can communicate directly with dental practices. It’s great for demonstrating your potential and making sure a particular practice or job is right for you.

It’s faster, cheaper and better for everyone involved.

There are many cons to dental staffing agencies, but they can easily be avoided. Whether you’re looking for a temp placement or a permanent dental assistant position, make Cloud Dentistry part of your job search. You’ll get access to live messaging features and online bookings at no cost. Why hand as much as 20% of your paycheck over to a dental staffing agency? Enroll for free to get started today.

Sharon Boyd has been a Registered Dental Hygienist since 2001 and holds a degree in human relations and business. She is the author of multiple continuing education development resources, training materials and dental professional blogs. In 2011, she founded to better serve the marketing needs of private practice dentists around the globe. In her spare time, she enjoys long distance running (her longest race to date was a 31-mile ultramarathon) and tag-teaming with her husband as they raise their large brood of children.

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