The COVID-19 pandemic has had a dramatic effect on the workforce, especially in the dental industry. A shortage of qualified employees, particularly dental assistants, has made finding and hiring dental office staff a daunting task. A recent survey found that while almost 40% of dentists were actively seeking dental assistants, more than 85% of them reported the process to be either “extremely” or “very” challenging.

In an effort to support the dental industry and create employment opportunities, Delta Dental has partnered with the California Dental Association (CDA) and California Labor and Workforce Development Agency on the initiative Community Care Foundation to create Smile Crew CA.

What is Smile Crew CA?

Smile Crew CA is a statewide California program launched to provide residents, particularly those who lost jobs during the pandemic, with new employment opportunities as dental assistants. The program offers the opportunity to learn necessary skills for a dental assisting career, including dental terminology, HIPAA compliance and infection control protocols, as well as required certifications.

How Smile Crew CA works

The four-week training combines an online self-led learning module and classroom instruction with on-the-job training, and it offers up 160 hours of paid work experience. The program includes:

  • 15 hours per week of in-classroom instruction
  • 8-12 hours per week of shadowing in a dental practice
  • Interview preparation
  • Onboarding and offboarding assistance
  • A certificate of completion

No previous experience is required. To be eligible, applicants must be 18 years of age or older, have a high school diploma or GED, be literate in English and eligible to work in the United States.

How Smile Crew CA is helping

To date, nearly 80 participants have completed the program, and all have either been placed in open positions in dental offices for on-the-job training or are completing their externships before placement.

Smile Crew CA is a win-win for both dentists and the community, said Kevin Ryan, Delta Dental’s Director of Foundation and Corporate Social Responsibility.

“By getting people back to work in good, high-paying jobs in health care, we can do social good by building up the oral health infrastructure of the state of California,” Ryan said. “But in addition, we can give providers what they really need right now, which is qualified, trained and certified registered dental assistants.”

Ryan added that Smile Crew CA is just one part of an ongoing effort by Delta Dental to increase access to care across the state of California.

“We want to increase access to care in every conceivable way,” Ryan said. “Expanding quality oral health care is our purpose.”