Dental hygienists are licensed oral health professionals who are trained in preventative care. That is, they care for a patient’s teeth and ensure the prevention of disease.
They can use tools to remove plaque and tartar, take and develop x-rays, apply fluoride and sealant, and administer anesthetics to prepare patients for a procedure.
Naturally, dental hygienists take on crucial roles in whatever institution they choose to work in. But how much can one expect to earn as a dental hygienist? And what factors affect this number? We take a look below.
Dental Hygienist Salary
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average annual salary for a dental hygienist is $77,810. The highest earners in the top 10% earned about $100,200.
On the lower end of things, the bottom 10% of dental hygienists took home around $60,100. As we’ll see below, quite a few factors are responsible for the differences in salary.
Thankfully, as a dental hygienist, you can choose to optimize these factors in your favor to increase your potential earnings in the coming years.
Factors that Affect the Annual Income of a Dental Hygienist
Below are a few factors responsible for the differences in salary for dental hygienists.
Experience matters in any profession, and as such, experienced professionals are often paid more than those just starting out. The dental hygiene field is no different.
Dental hygienists who have been on the job for longer are expected to have more practical knowledge than those just starting out. Therefore, they are often demanded and paid. more to meet the high demand.
While most dental hygienists carry out practical duties such as removing plaque and tartar, taking and developing x-rays, and helping dentists with procedures, it is possible for a dental hygienist to be hired in a strictly managerial role.
This is common for those who have been in the job for a long time and have become familiar with the administrative aspect of the job. Securing a career in this role requires a higher salary package.
Just as it is with most occupations, location matters when determining how long a dental hygienist will earn. Some states pay more than others, and cities inside a state also tend to have different median salaries for hygienists.
However, it should be said that states such as California, where dental hygienists earn more than others, also have higher living costs than the national average.
Skills & Specialty
Certain skill sets may allow a dental hygienist to earn more than others. For instance, those with a high skill set in radiology or periodontics may be in higher demand, equating to higher salaries.
Additionally, specialties such as pediatric dental hygiene have a median annual salary of $70,354; those in public health administration earn a median annual income of $52,172, while periodontic dental hygienists earn $65,367 on average every year.
Another crucial factor in determining how much a dental hygienist earns is their workplace. Those who work in large courses with many other dental hygienists with similar qualifications may earn less than those who work at a smaller practice with very few hygienists.
The particular industry where you practice as a dental hygienist can also greatly influence how much you earn yearly. For instance, dental hygienists working in a dentist’s office tend to earn around $77,810 annually. Those who work in physicians’ offices earn a median annual income of $77,290. Lastly, dental hygienists working with the government make a median yearly salary of $64,110.
Dental Hygienist Job Outlook
The Bureau of Labor Statistics said that the job outlook for dental hygiene is quite optimistic, with a 9% growth projection.
The data provided by the bureau revealed 206,100 dental hygienists in the country as of 2020. And that between 2021 to 2031, there will be an additional opening of 16,300 jobs every year.
Reason for Projection
Many projected openings are expected to occur due to the need to replace workers who transfer to different occupations or retire. Increased demand is also likely thanks to the aging baby boomer population.
Another reason for the optimistic projection is that more and more people are recognizing the importance of dental hygiene and how having robust oral health can reduce the possibilities of other harmful diseases.
Dental Hygienist Possible Career Path
It is usual for dental hygienist to begin their career as entry-level professional. Thankfully, there is much opportunity for growth in the field. After acquiring more experience, they can further their career by moving into supervisory roles or considering a shift to related industries.
Some examples of possible career paths for a dental hygienist include branching out as any of the following:
Research Dental Hygienist - Research dental hygienists conduct research, gather data, and lead clinical trials. Those wishing to branch into this field typically have to return to college and attain a master’s degree.
Dental Hygiene Instructor - Dental hygiene instructors teach and supervise dental students during their dental hygiene programs. Dental hygiene instructors can work in vocational institutions, community colleges, and universities.
Corporate Dental Hygienist - Corporate dental hygienists work for large dental companies. Depending on preference, they can work in sales, research, customer relations, marketing, or product development.
Dentist - It is also possible for a dental hygienist to choose to become a dentist. After attaining the necessary education requirements, they may choose to establish their own practice and work for themselves or apply to be a part of an established practice.
Other alternatives include public health administrators who may craft dental health policies for schools, military or government institutions, and hygiene coordinators responsible for managing a group of dental hygienists within their facility.