What Is the Average Annual Salary for a Dental Hygienist?

Are you interested in helping others achieve and maintain proper oral health? If so, a career as a dental hygienist may be right for you. Your salary may be impacted by your location, experience and where you choose to work. Schools offering Dental Hygiene degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

Job Description

As a dental hygienist, you are responsible for cleaning teeth and inspecting the oral areas of patients. It is also your job to work with them to promote positive oral health by demonstrating proper brushing and flossing techniques. There is a long list of equipment that you will need to become adept at using, such as various cleaning and polishing tools and x-ray machines. You will perform diagnostic tests and prepare charts for the dentist to analyze, and you may work closely with the dentist and aid them during delicate procedures.

Salary Overview

According to figures reported by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) in May 2012, you could earn an average yearly salary of $70,700 working as a dental hygienist (www.bls.gov). The lowest paid 10 percent of workers received $46,540 or less, and the top paid 10 percent earned $96,280 or more annually. There were 190,290 people employed as dental hygienists as of May 2012.

Salary by Industry

According to May 2012 figures from the BLS, the highest level of employment was in the offices of dentists with earnings of $71,000 per year on average. The earnings for those working in the offices of physicians earned an average annual wage of $65,310 at that time. Those working in the other ambulatory health care services industry were paid the highest mean annual wage of $74,240 annually.

Salary by Location

Your location can also play an important role in your salary. The BLS reported that if you work in the highest paying states, which included California, Nevada, Washington, the District of Columbia and Connecticut in May 2012, you can make between $84,320 and $93,280 annually. These average wages were much more per year than the national average. Conversely, dental hygienists may earn less than the national average in some states, which included Michigan and Kentucky; coincidentally, Michigan is one of the states with the highest employment of dental hygienists per capita.

Salary by Experience

PayScale.com reported the earnings for dental hygienists by experience in January 2014. The following shows the reported salary ranges for each experience level:

  • Less than a year: $28,118-$68,066
  • 1-4 years: $30,224-$69,066
  • 5-9 years: $30,654-$86,426
  • 10-19 years: $34,644-$76,462
  • 20 or more years: $38,455-$80,918

Education Requirements

An associate's degree is typically the highest form of education required for this job. Bachelor's degrees, master's degree and certificate programs also exist, though. These degree programs provide you with training in human anatomy, chemistry, pharmacology, radiography and periodontology (the study of gum disease). You also need to obtain state licensure, which involves passing a written test administered by the American Dental Association and a clinical examination administered by a state testing agency.

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