Dental assistant and Dental Health Day
On 25 September, dental health was a particular focus. The positive results of the Fifth German Oral Health Study (DMS V) show that this topic is also generally perceived as important by the population. The Federal Dental Association (BZÄK) reports that Germany has achieved top positions in an international comparison of the decline in tooth decay, periodontitis and complete toothlessness. One of the reasons cited is the increased group and individual prophylaxis.
Sylvia Gabel, Head of Department for Dental Assistants in the Verband medizinischer Fachberufe e.V., explains: “We are pleased about this development and are certain that the dental assistants (ZFA) have made a significant contribution to this success. Their tasks include not only administrative and commercial work in the practice, assistance during treatment and individual care before and after treatment. ZFA also explains the possibilities of caries and periodontitis prophylaxis to the patients, guides them to oral hygiene and participates in group prophylaxis in kindergartens. Between 2006 and 2014 alone, around 6,300 dental assistants successfully completed further training as dental prophylaxis assistants (ZMP) and 2,800 as dental assistants (ZMF). With these courses of at least 400 and 800 hours, respectively, they acquire the knowledge and skills needed to relieve the dentist of the burden of dental care. For example, they can carry out professional dental cleaning (PZR) independently under the supervision of the dentist using all available modern equipment and aids. 1] The proportion of my colleagues who specialise in this field continues to rise and almost every PZR is now taken over by qualified dental assistants”.
It is therefore all the more incomprehensible that the remuneration of employees in dental practices is so poor. In an online survey  carried out in May of this year, 26 percent of the ZFA nationwide stated that they only receive the minimum wage at the most, while 38 percent found in a comparison with the collective agreement that they receive less than they would be entitled to according to the tariff table. Around 19 percent are either bound by the collective agreement or the employer is guided by it. A further 17 percent of the participating ZFA are paid in excess of the collective agreement. The result for the continuing ZFA was also unsatisfactory: nine percent still stated that they receive the maximum minimum wage. The largest part, 41 percent, is paid below the minimum wage. At 19 per cent, the remuneration is linked to or based on the collective agreement, and a further 31 per cent is paid above the collectively agreed rate. Sylvia Gabel, herself a ZMF trainee, comments: “The fee for a PZR is between 80 and 100 euros. May it be that a qualified ZMP or ZMF is fobbed off at 8.50 gross per hour for this service rendered?
The Verband medizinischer Fachberufe e.V. sees the reason for this shameful state of affairs in the unwillingness of the majority of dentists’ representatives to join the existing collective agreement. “For more than 24 years, there has been no nationwide collective agreement for dental assistants. Our tariff partner represents employers from Hamburg, Hessen, Westfalen lip and the Saarland , explains in addition federation president Carmen Gandila. “The survey showed that in these areas more colleagues are paid at least according to the tariff: In the collective bargaining area, the figure is 58 for the ZFA and 61 percent for the more highly qualified, i.e. 22 and 11 percentage points respectively more than the national average. Similarly, only ten percent of the ZFA receive the minimum wage and less than one percent of the more highly qualified in these areas. However, this contract is not generally binding.”
As long as other employers’ representatives do not decide to sign the existing collective agreement, they recommend that every dentist should establish a collective agreement on individual employment contracts with staff, Carmen Gandila continues. “The advantages are obvious: Collective agreements are the basis for calculation and standard for minimum working conditions. They increase transparency in practice, help to maintain peace within the company, can be used for personnel development and employee retention. In this way, they enhance the image of the industry as an employer. This is because the training market has now become a market for applicants. Today’s good school leavers have the choice. Income, further development and social recognition are important criteria for them”. She emphasises: “We see the collective agreements as a minimum standard and are happy about any ZFA that is paid above the collective wage agreement”. At the same time, the association president also calls on dental assistants to strengthen their professional association through membership in order to strengthen their negotiating position vis-à-vis employers.