Posted in Career Insights
Dental Assistant Salary

When you walk into your local dentist’s office for a tooth extraction, and the dentist has a partner sitting in and handing them tools while you’re waiting for the work to start, that is an employee known as a dental assistant.  

These assistants serve to do various tasks in the office that don’t require a doctorate and an exhaustive amount of knowledge about the mouth.

They understand everything from working with the dentist during a difficult procedure to ensuring that patients are calm during a teeth cleaning.

The people who perform these jobs are extremely important, as they help keep a dentist’s office running smoothly.

They are also a friendly point of contact for patients in what many consider to be a painful situation. Dental assistants are vital to society’s healthy teeth. 

If this kind of profession interests you, something you are probably wondering is, How much do dental assistants make? The answer is, it depends. Continue on to learn more about the average dental assistant pay and factors that affect those numbers.

Average Dental Assistant Yearly and Hourly Pay 

According to Indeed, the median annual salary for someone who works as a dental assistant is a respectable $39,353 per year. This means that the average hourly pay is $18.92.

However, factors like education, experience, specialization, and location can influence a dental assistant’s pay.

Education

If you’re wondering, How much do dental assistants make? it is necessary to factor in the dental assistant’s education.

Many dental assistant positions require only a high school diploma. However, if you hold a higher degree or even a certification, you will likely be justified in expecting a higher salary.

Some dental assistants earn an Associates’s degree or a dental assistant certificate. This makes them a more competitive professionals and can increase their starting salary. Dental assistants who have some kind of degree or certificate earn slightly more money.

Experience

An entry-level dental assistant will earn less than a more experienced dental assistant. On average, Zip Recruiter reports that an entry-level dental assistant’s salary is around $16 per hour.

However, once you become an experienced enough dental assistant, you will likely see your pay increase. Ten-plus-year veterans in the industry can earn salaries up to $48,500, according to Indeed. 

After you have been in the role for a while, you will know where your areas of expertise are. This can give you leverage when negotiating a higher salary.

Be sure to focus on how you contribute to the day-to-day functions of the dental office and how you assist the dentist.

Specialization

It is also worth noting that if you specialize in a certain dental area, you might be better positioned to make more money. These areas include 

  • Oral surgery, where the average pay is $20 per hour;
  • Orthodontics, where the average pay is $22 per hour;
  • Pediatrics, where the average pay is $22.50 per hour;
  • Endodontics, where the average pay is $19 per hour; and 
  • Periodontics, where the average pay is $25.50 per hour.

(Statistics according to DentalCareersEdu.org).

However, with higher-paying specialties usually comes higher responsibilities. Oral surgery dental assistants usually aid with patients under general anesthesia.

Pediatric dentistry and orthodontists can affect someone’s mouth and smile for life. So if you are considering one of these specialties, make sure you understand the responsibility that comes with it.

Location

Similar to what specialty you chose, where you chose to live can also affect how much dental assistants make an hour. According to the DANB and BLS, dental assistant salaries are the highest in states like:

  • Delaware at $26.50/hour,
  • Wyoming at $25.65/hour,
  • Alaska at $25/hour, 
  • Minnesota at $25.10/hour, 
  • New Hampshire at $23/hour, and
  • North Dakota at $23/hour.

The highest-paid dental assistants live in Washington D.C.

However, even if you are just starting out and you live in an area where the average income is below average, a career as a dental assistant can still be fruitful.

The demand for dental assistants is growing, and if you are a fast-paced, passionate learner, you will likely earn a pay increase faster than you think.

How to Become a Dental Assistant

There are several potential paths to becoming a dental assistant. Your path may vary depending on where you live and your career goals.

Some states require dental assistants to complete specific educational and certification requirements. This may include graduating from an accredited program and passing an exam. 

Other states do not require formal training for dental assistants. Instead, dental assistants can gain on-the-job training and experience.

However, even where formal training is not required, completing a dental assistant education program can give you a leg up in the job market and likely an increased starting salary.

Dental Assistant Job Growth

The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that between 2020 and 2030, the demand for dental assistants will increase by 11%. This is a faster increase than the national average.

This anticipated increase in demand makes sense. Dentists often don’t have time to clean their tools, sort patient files, and perform other administrative tasks.

Dental assistants take this burden off the dentist so they can focus on providing care to their patients. This increases the health care that patients and communities receive and is thus beneficial to society as a whole. Dental assistants are crucial.

Plus, as technology advances, the need for dental assistants will continue to grow. This is especially true for dental assistants who receive formal training and certifications, as they are more aware of industry and technological advances. These dental assistants can relay the improvements to their dentists.

The All Allied Health School notes that as technology allows for better teeth prosthetics, dentists’ office visits (and therefore the demand for dental assistants!) will surely increase.

So, being a dental assistant is a good job that generally requires a minimal amount of training. Is there any downside to that sweet dental assistant salary? 

Frankly, there’s very little.  Unless you don’t like working with people or working with mouths or teeth, there is no reason to skip over the work that dental assistants do.  

The question of ‘how much do dental assistants make an hour’ has been well-documented, tracked, and investigated, and there is plenty of money in the industry for those with the desire to work at earning it.

Explore a Career as a Dental Assistant

If you’re looking to find a job that you can enjoy, one that will allow you to help people and give back to the community, and one that will pay decently, working as a dental assistant may be the job for you. 

The fast-paced work environment in a dentist’s office means that no two days are ever the same.

Most dental assistants report that they love their jobs, and they note that they are constantly learning and growing as professionals in their positions. Plus, most dental assistants really enjoy helping their fellow community members.

If that isn’t enough, the pay scale is decent, the work is important, and perhaps most importantly, the vast majority of work is performed indoors, in an air-conditioned environment. 

Stratford Career Institute’s introductory course is a great starting point for people considering a career as an interior designer. Especially if you are hesitant for any reason, this course can help you determine whether a career as a dental assistant is right for you.

Stratford’s dental assistant introductory course covers:

  • An introduction to the profession,
  • Basic dental science,
  • Clinical dental procedures,
  • Dental radiology and specialities, and
  • Restorative Dentistry and Office Management.

If you are ready to begin learning about a dental assistant career, enroll in our online course today!

This educational program is an introductory course designed to help students gain the knowledge necessary for the vocational application of this subject. Completion of this program does not fulfill the legal requirements of particular state licenses or certifications, which may require additional training or apprenticeships.

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Explore a Dental Assistant Career

Explore a Dental Assistant Career

If you’re looking for a fulfilling career that allows you to help people, assist the community, and also pays well, get started by enrolling in Stratford’s dental assistant course today!