For a profession that has been recognized for over 100 years (founded in 1919), it’s great to note this industry is even more viable now than ever. The unemployment rate is low (no considering a pandemic), there’s good work-life balance, and future growth looks optimistic. The average Dental Hygienists’ salary is higher than many other jobs, and requires a rather low number of years of education required.
Please don’t be misled, however. This is a demanding and often difficult job that requires technical, visual as well as soft skills. But first, let’s discuss the bottom line: your salary.
How much does a Dental Hygienist make in the United States?
According to Salary.com:
‘The average full-time salary for a Dental Hygienist in the United States is $75,810 as of September 25, 2020. They go on to report the range falls between $65,067 and $86,294 or somewhere between $31 and $41/hr.’
Salaries can vary widely depending on factors such as: certifications earned for expanded functions, and years of experience including experience in either a general practice or a periodontal setting.
Naturally, Dental Hygiene salaries vary by state, skills, and experience, and although the median is $74,820 per year. The highest-paid ones make upwards of $80,000 while the lowest-paid make about $60,000 to $66,000.
Dental hygiene is an excellent career choice, which is seconded by a US news and information site that ranks it number one in Healthcare Support Jobs for 2020 and 24th overall in the Best Jobs category.
Knowing Your Worth: How Valuable Are You as a Dental Hygienist?
Dental Hygienists are valuable. Most basically, they assess oral health, screen for oral cancer and diseases, educate patients on proper oral care, clean teeth, take and develop radiographs. In a setting where expanded duties are performed, Dental Hygienists can take courses and become certified in restorative procedures.
These procedures vary from state to state and include placing bases and cavity liners, placing and removing temporary restorations and crowns, placing and carving amalgam and composite restorations and in Minnesota they can place, carve and adjust glass ionomer restorations.
To precisely determine how valuable you are, just determine how much a Dental Hygiene visit contributes to the production in the practice. Dental Hygienists have intimate contact with every tooth in the patient’s mouth.
Even when seeing a patient who’s not scheduled for an exam, Dental Hygienists may see necessary treatment and ask the Dentist to make a definitive diagnosis, resulting in increased production.
This is aside from treatment diagnosed during a regular exam following a Dental Hygiene visit. The bottom line is this: Without a Dental Hygienist, restorative visits will decline. We’ll say it again: Dental Hygienists are valuable!
Here are some figures:
- The hygiene department averages 25-35% of gross dental office production. This varies based on the procedures and production of the Dentist. For help in determining your contribution, read the article from
On Dental Hygiene production as a percentage of the Dental Practice production by Rachell Wells BS, RDH, October 18th , 2018. You can read it here.
- About 75% of needed restorative work is discovered and diagnosed during visits to the Dental Hygienist.
Key takeaway: A Dental Practice with a Dental Hygienist is more profitable than one without a Dental Hygienist.
How Can You Provide More Worth to Your Practice?
We’ve already discussed how valuable the work of Hygienists are to any dental office, but how can you make yourself even more indispensable — enough to merit a higher salary? The answer lies in self-development; as a professional, this is something that should never stop.
Examples of self-development routes you can take to get noticed:
- Take continued education courses and not just those that you need to maintain your license.
- Keep step with the latest in dental materials, technology, and equipment.
- Work on your soft skills (communication, problem-solving, positive attitude, compassion for the patient, etc.)
- Always be willing to step up and demonstrate you’re a great Team player. There’s no job in the office that is too small for idle hands.
Negotiating for Higher Pay
An increase in your salary as a Dental Hygienist is much more likely when you negotiate for one. The crucial part of the negotiation is to think “win-win.” You can do this by presenting facts such as an increase in production numbers, patients you’ve recruited and those you’ve helped retain, a positive attitude and consistent Team participation. Now is also the time to present the skills you’ve learned and honed since you started with the practice.
Don’t be afraid to counter-offer and it doesn’t have to be about salary alone. You can ask for continued education reimbursement, uniforms, and/or newer equipment to perform better patient care.
Lastly, don’t forget to give your employer a short thank you note once negotiations have been completed, no matter what the outcome. A grateful attitude is always appreciated and never forgotten.
“Do not overestimate the competition and underestimate yourself.
You are better than you think.”
– T. Harv Eker