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Selected Publications

How Do We Measure Shortages of Dental Hygienists and Dental Assistants?

Brown, T.T., T.L. Finlayson, and R.M. Scheffler. “How Do We Measure Shortages of Dental Hygienists and Dental Assistants? Evidence from California: 1997-2005.” Journal of the American Dental Association 138 (Jan 2007): 94-100.


BACKGROUND: The authors examined the labor market for registered dental hygienists (RDHs) and dental assistants (DAs) in California from 1997 to 2005 to determine whether there was a shortage in either market.

METHODS: This analysis used economic indicators interpreted within an economic framework to investigate trends in labor force numbers and market-determined wages for RDHs and DAs. Rising inflation-adjusted mean wages indicated a labor shortage, while declining inflation-adjusted mean wages indicated a labor surplus.

RESULTS: From 1999 to 2002, the wages for RDHs increased 48 percent and then stabilized, indicating a shortage had occurred, after which the market achieved equilibrium. Wages for DAs increased 13.9 percent from 1997 to 2001, but then declined from 2001 to 2005, indicating a shortage that then became a surplus. The market for DAs may not have stabilized.

CONCLUSIONS: Wages increased for RDHs and DAs, suggesting that labor shortages occurred in both markets. The large supply response in the market for DAs resulted in wages declining after their initial rise.

PRACTICE IMPLICATIONS: Tracking the local labor markets for RDHs and DAs will enable dental professionals to respond more efficiently to market signals.