LAS VEGAS (KLAS) – Before the pandemic, there was already a national shortage of dental hygienists. Once the pandemic hit nearly half of the hygienists either quit or retired. spoke to a Las Vegas dentist on what’s being done to recruit more hygienists.

Dr. Dee Dee Meevasin has been a dentist for 15 years and has one practice in the Silverado Ranch area, and a second location in the medical district on Charleston Boulevard. The ability to staff the locations has proved to be challenging.

“At our dental practice, we were actively looking for a dental hygienist for two years, before we found one. But I’ve been talking to some of my other dental friends, some still haven’t gotten a dental hygenist,” she shared.

Dr. Meevasin said she hired Dental Hygienist Emily Wang, who moved to Las Vegas from California.

“As a hygenist, it’s really great, you can work alongside dentists to help diagnose, anything you see within a patient.

An American Dental Association poll showed nearly 40 dental practices are trying to recruit hygienists and of those, 95% said it’s been difficult to hire someone.

In the 20 largest U.S. cities, the poll found that only half of the hygienist positions are reported as filled.

Since COVID annual salaries for dental hygienists have nearly doubled to an average of $90,000.

“It is nice to be incentivized, but I feel like it is more appealing for new grads nowadays, a great compensation,” she said.

For Emily, the career choice is more about the flexibility it offers, along with being a mom as well.

Dr. Meevasin said the higher salary to get great help like Emily Wang is worth every penny, but the current downside is that benefits have not continued to improve.

“The unfortunate part is that dental insurance has not increased the reimbursements to help match that, it’s a big issue for a lot of dental professionals, across the nation, we’re trying to accommodate the higher salary without reimbursement rates going up,” she added.

Dr. Meevasin also shared that dental hygiene schools are trying to recruit more students and offer more classes but said schools can only accommodate so many students.