Practice Management |4 min read

Can’t Answer the Phone? You’re Not Alone: The Dental Staffing Crisis and the Path Forward

Office manager holding head with caption: Can't Answer the Phone? You're not alone...Curve Dental.


Remember the days when the biggest concern at the front desk was a busy phone line? A constant ring might have meant a bustling practice, but today, unanswered calls are usually the symptom of a deeper problem.

“A lot of phone calls are not being answered. That’s the number one issue [we’re] seeing right now. And it’s because there’s just not enough manpower,” says Malika Azargoon, dental consultant and founder of Zar Dental Consulting.

Missed calls are just the tip of the iceberg.

They point to a much bigger challenge facing dental offices today: a staffing crisis. This shortage is leading to overworked staff, frustration for patients, and ultimately, burnout.

But there’s hope! The Learning Curve, a new video podcast series from Curve Dental®, tackles these critical issues and other pressing concerns facing dental professionals today, offering practical solutions and insights.

“Shocked at the Number of Calls That We Missed”

In the debut episode of The Learning Curve, industry veterans Beverly Wilburn (AADOM), Lynne Leggett, BS (FAADOM), Teresa Duncan, MS, and Malika Azargoon address the underlying causes behind unanswered calls, the staffing crisis, and a prominent industry issue – staff burnout.

In the discussion, AADOM member and dental practice management expert Beverly Wilburn shares a stark reality. She once observed more than a quarter of calls missed in a single day at her practice simply because there weren’t enough people to answer them.

“I pulled my call reports, and I was shocked at the number of calls that we missed! I saw that 29% of our calls on one given day were just going through to voicemail,” noted Wilburn.

“We’re Losing People Left and Right”

The staffing crisis isn’t just anecdotal. A 2024 DentalPost Salary Report reveals that more than 50 percent of dental professionals are actively or passively looking for better job opportunities. [Source: 2024 DentalPost Salary Report]

A better work environment is cited among the top 3 motivations for this mass exodus.

“What I’m hearing from offices are two things. It’s hard to make change and then it’s also hard to be consistent with those changes because, as you guys know, we’re losing people left and right,” noted Duncan.

“I’m really nervous that we’re not changing fast enough for the industry to keep up with other industries around us,” she added.

Malika Azargoon, points out another factor: a generational shift. Younger patients demand convenient options like text-to-pay, which a short-staffed office can’t always offer. This disconnect between patient needs and a practice’s capabilities can further strain staff and contribute to burnout.

Burnout, Busy Lives, and a Disconnect

The reasons for the shortage are multifaceted. Burnout is a major factor, with staff overwhelmed by workload and facing pressure to constantly adapt to new technology.

Busy lifestyles also play a role—potential staff members juggling family and other commitments may be discouraged by traditional dental office hours.

But There’s Hope…

The good news? The conversation doesn’t end there. There are practical solutions for what might look like seemingly impossible situations:

  • Embracing technology: Utilizing platforms like Curve® – the #1 cloud-based all-in-one practice management system inspired by office managers – for online scheduling, automated billing, and patient portals can free up staff time and streamline workflows.
  • Rethinking the work environment: As remote work becomes more common in almost every industry, it’s time for dentistry to follow suit. Offering flexible scheduling or remote work opportunities can attract a wider range of talent, especially those seeking better work-life balance. (And if you’re ready for better ways to manage your practice remotely, stay tuned for some exciting “Curve Mobile” updates coming soon!)
  • Investing in the team: Prioritizing staff well-being through competitive salaries, benefits, and programs to combat burnout can boost morale and retention.

Grab Your Mug & Join the Conversation

Curve media blog body image for AADOM in May.The Learning Curve is dentistry’s best new podcast, packed with engaging conversations and practical solutions to reignite your passion and feel confident to thrive in today’s dynamic dental landscape.

Tune in to hear the full discussion with industry experts and discover how you can navigate the staffing crisis and build a thriving practice.

And if you’re ready to break free from common dental practice hurdles, schedule a personalized demo to see how Curve can streamline your workflow, boost patient satisfaction, and empower your team. Get started here.


About the Author

Chantelle Camareno from Curve headshot.Chantelle Camareno is a dental industry writer at Curve Dental, a leading dental software company. She monitors and reports on trends shaping dental practice management, with a focus on the latest software innovations designed to empower dental professionals and create more efficient teams and seamless processes. Outside of work, Chantelle balances being a busy mom of two toddlers alongside her wonderful husband Mark.



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