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How Dentists, Hygienists & Assistants Are Paid. Does Yours Stack Up?

Dental hygienists living in the Golden State of California have it made. Well, if not “made,” they tend to earn a bit more in metro areas like San Francisco, Santa Cruz and Los Angeles, according to U.S. News & World Report. The average pay of a dental hygienist a few years ago was about $71K. Hygienists in Los Angeles, by comparison, earn an average of roughly $99K, likely because of LA’s higher cost of living.

As income earners, you can put dental hygienists between their counterparts. Dental assistants are on the left, as the lower earners. Dentists are on the right, as the higher earners (often much higher earners). For those of you who work in the dental industry, this won’t be much of a surprise.

But just how does your pay stack up?

Dentists make the big bucks. Average pay: $146,340.

You won’t be shocked to read that dentists make more money than assistants and hygienists. It’s a fact of life. That said, many dentists run private practices, and as business owners, must deal with the day-to-day of revenue, expenditures, human resources, etc.

You could say that a dentist’s high pay is justified not only by his or her level of training and experience, but by the responsibilities involved in running a private practice, or simply by the responsibilities involved in treating patients facing a variety of oral health issues.

Dental hygienists do pretty well, too. Average pay: $71,110.

We’ve written about the dangers of being a dental hygienist: “[T]he majority of dental hygienists are like slow motion train wrecks,” writes Anne Nugent Guignon, RDH, MPH. “Their bodies are ready to derail without much provocation.” But the good news – other than following Ms. Guignon’s advice on injury-prevention – is that hygienists are fairly well compensated for their work.

Unfortunately, dental assistants lag behind. Average pay: $34,900.

Dental assistants could be the most unhappy bunch on the planet, with many reporting a lack of appreciation around the office. Combine that with the relatively low pay and extracurricular job duties (one dental assistant reported having to scrub toilets and wash windows), and you have a recipe for dissatisfaction.

But the outlook isn’t entirely poor in the field of dental assisting.

In fact, though many DAs report negatively on their jobs, there were plenty who appeared to thrive. Much of this depends on finding a dental practice where most of the staff has been around for longer than a handful of years – which indicates a number of positive things, such as mutual respect among assistants, hygienists and dentists, as well as that all-important factor: fair compensation.

ource: U.S. News & World Report

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