Dental Assistant Salary

Dental Assistant’s Salary Information

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Dental assistants generally work in dental offices and perform many tasks ranging from record keeping to patient care. Duties will vary somewhat from one dentist’s office to the next, though they often include preparing patients for treatments or procedures and preparing the work area for the dentist by sterilizing and setting out instruments and materials. The dental assistant will work with the dentist during procedures, and will often process x-rays and do basic lab work under the dentist’s direction. They will work with patients to schedule appointments, work out billing, and keep records of treatments.

The Skinny on Salaries

Dental assistants are currently earning a median annual wage of $33,470 ($16.09 per hour), with the top 10 percent earning over $48,000 (around $23 per hour). The occupation is a rapidly expanding one, with employment of dental assistants expected to increase by 31 percent by 2020.

The baby-boom population has been quite a boon to the dental profession. The aging population is keeping more teeth than previous generations, creating an ongoing need for dental maintenance and treatment. Due to this and other contributing factors, dental practices are growing, and dentists are relying on dental assistants more and more to perform routine tasks.

A large percentage of dental assistants work full-time, though approximately 20 percent only work on a part-time basis.

Determining Factors

There are a number of significant factors that will impact a dental assistant’s salary. Obviously, aspects like geographic location and employment venues do make a difference, and we will cover those factors later. There are, however, a few additional major factors that can strongly impact a dental assistant’s salary for better or for worse.

The first of those is education and certification. Some leap into the career with minimal training, hoping to learn “on the job”. While it’s true that those without an extensive education can learn on the job, a potential employer will generally expect at least the bare minimum in classroom education through a basic course that lasts from 6 months to a year.

A qualified dental assistant who has completed the various dental assisting education requirements and internship, but has not taken any licensing exams may be able to find work; however, they cannot usually expect a very high salary.

A Certified Dental Assistant (CDA) has passed the DANB Certified Dental Assistant exams, and with that license, they will usually have an easier time finding employment and can request a higher starting salary.

A Registered Dental Assistant (RDA) has completed both the DANB and the licensure requirements of the State Board of Dental Examiners (SBDE). This shows a high level of competence; thus, RDAs typically earn the highest salaries. Do note, however, that some states don’t recognize RDA certification; consequently, in this case an RDA would not earn a higher salary than a CDA.

The second factor is experience – and this is a hard one to beat if you’re fresh out of school. New graduates with less than five years of experience will typically earn around $9-15 per hour. A dental assistant with ten or more years of experience can command an average hourly salary of $18 or more.

Finally, the more specialized a dental assistant is the higher salary they can command. While a general dental assistant may receive a starting pay of $9 to $11 per hour, an endodontic dental assistant can expect up to $16 per hour. Moving even higher on the scale, an orthodontic dental assistant can make up to $18 an hour, and periodontal assistants can command as high as $19 per hour.

Industry Breakdown

As mentioned, where a dental assistant chooses to work does affect their hourly rate. An assistant who works in a general dentist’s office, performing general tasks, will typically make an average salary of $34,710, or $16.69 per hour. As a dental assistant who furthers their education significantly may command a higher salary by going into specialized dental offices or even going into education where they can earn as much as $61,000 annually.

INDUSTRY

AVERAGE HOURLY

AVERAGE ANNUAL

Offices of Dentists

$16.69

$34,710

Offices of Physicians

$15.74

$32,740

Outpatient Care Centers

$16.86

$35,070

General Medical and Surgical Hospitals

$17.47

$36,340

Federal Executive Branch (OES Designation)

$18.35

$38,180

Colleges, Universities, Professional Schools

$29.52

$61,410

Employment Services

$16.82

$34,990

Geographic Breakdown

Finally, location is an essential factor in the salary of a dental assistant. In some states and metropolitan areas, a dental assistant can receive a surprisingly high salary, while a similarly skilled and educated assistant in another state might receive just over half that rate. The District of Columbia, for example, offers some of the highest salaries in the country for dental assistants, averaging out at around $48,040 annually, or $23.09 hourly. On the other end of the scale, West Virginia dental assistants make an average of $12.44 per hour, or $25,870 annually.

STATE

AVERAGE HOURLY

AVERAGE ANNUAL

Alabama

$14.08

$29,290

Alaska

$20.44

$42,520

Arizona

$17.20

$35,790

Arkansas

$13.72

$28,550

California

$17.51

$36,420

Colorado

$18.18

$37,820

Connecticut

$19.42

$40,380

Delaware

$16.64

$34,620

District of Colombia

$23.09

$48,040

Florida

$15.97

$33,220

Georgia

$16.65

$34,640

Hawaii

$14.95

$31,100

Idaho

$14.42

$30,000

Illinois

$15.56

$32,360

Indiana

$16.69

$34,710

Iowa

$17.16

$35,690

Kansas

$15.17

$31,560

Kentucky

$15.22

$31,650

Louisiana

$14.18

$29,490

Maine

$17.82

$37,060

Maryland

$17.19

$35,750

Massachusetts

$19.85

$41,280

Michigan

$16.21

$33,720

Minnesota

$20.43

$42,500

Mississippi

$13.66

$28,410

Missouri

$16.18

$33,640

Montana

$14.71

$30,600

Nebraska

$15.05

$31,300

Nevada

$16.86

$35,080

New Hampshire

$20.44

$42,510

New Jersey

$18.38

$38,230

New Mexico

$15.35

$31,940

New York

$17.06

$35,490

North Carolina

$17.72

$36,850

North Dakota

$16.59

$34,500

Ohio

$15.80

$32,860

Oklahoma

$14.43

$30,020

Oregon

$18.60

$38,680

Pennsylvania

$15.67

$32,600

Rhode Island

$17.81

$37,050

South Carolina

$15.81

$32,880

South Dakota

$13.95

$29,020

Tennessee

$16.24

$33,780

Texas

$15.17

$31,550

Utah

$13.84

$28,780

Vermont

$18.49

$38,460

Virginia

$17.45

$36,290

Washington

$18.62

$38,720

West Virginia

$12.44

$25,870

Wisconsin

$16.44

$34,190

Wyoming

$15.97

$33,220