Dental Assistants: Salary Overview
Dental Assistants work in dentists’ offices where they have many tasks, such as caring for patients, keeping records, and scheduling appointments.
The exact duties a dental assistant is allowed to perform varies by state but their job description typically includes ensuring that patients are comfortable, preparing patients and work areas for procedures, sterilizing instruments, handing instruments to dentists during procedures, and processing x-rays.
They are also responsible for keeping records of the treatments performed, scheduling patient appointments, and working with patients on billing and payment.
The median annual wage for dental assistants was $40,080 as of May 2019, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
The mean hourly wage for dental assistants was $19,79.
This means that half of the dental assistants in the United States earned less than this while half earned more.
The top 10 percent of dental assistants earned more than $56,930 while the lowest 10 percent made less than $27,980 per year.
Salaries vary according to the dental assistant’s level of experience and skills, but also the employer and the region of employment.
Dental Assistant Salary by Industry
According to BLS, dental assistants held approximately 346,000 jobs in the United States in 2018, most of them (90 percent) working in the offices of dentists.
Others worked for the government or in physician’s offices.
Dental assistants who worked in offices of dentists earned, on average, $41,200 per year.
Those who worked in physician’s offices reported an average annual wage of $38,840.
The average annual salary was $40,670 for dental assistants who worked in outpatient care centers and $40,760 for those who worked in the field of employment services.
The federal executive branch hired several thousands of dental assistants in May 2019 and paid them, on average, with $42,950 per year.
The highest average annual salary was reported by dental assistants who worked in the field of agencies, brokerages, and other insurance-related activities.
In this field, the average annual wage for dental assistants was $57,770.
The second-highest salary was reported by dental assistants who worked for nursing care facilities- a field that paid them, on average, with $50,640 per year.
Dental assistants who worked for state governments made, on average, $47,200 per year.
However, these fields that offer higher-than-average salaries typically hire only a few dental assistants and job openings may not occur very often.
Another factor that may help dental assistants earn a higher salary is the level of education and certification.
Some states require dental assistants to hold a special license in order to be allowed to perform x-rays, coronal polishing, and other expanded duties.
Being able to perform more tasks in the dental office can increase your salary.
According to the Dental Assisting National Board, dental assistants who hold DANB’s Certified Dental Assistant certification earn, on average, $20.76 per hour, higher than the median rate for this profession.
This certification will qualify you for performing multiple tasks and thus you will be more valuable to your employer.
To qualify for the certification exam you will need to graduate from an accredited dental assistant program or to have some work experience as a dental assistant.
You will also need CPR certification.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, employment for dental assistants is projected to grow 11 percent from 2018 to 2028, faster than the average for all occupations.
As dental practices grow, more dental assistants will be needed in order to help dentists work more efficiently.
Job opportunities vary by region and those who have a few years of experience and are certified to perform extended tasks should have the best job prospects.
In conclusion, as a dental assistant, you can make anywhere between less than $30,000 and more than $50,000 a year, depending on a variety of factors, including the industry of employment, experience, and education.
* Based on information from the May 2021 salary report from the BLS. The figures represent accumulated data for all states of employment for Dental Assistants. BLS data represents averages and medians for workers at all levels of education and experience. This data doesn't represent starting salaries.
* Employment conditions in your area may vary.