Dental assistants enjoy great job security, have good work schedules, get to help people, and earn a decent salary.
In the United States, the average dental assistant salary is $44,820 per year or $21.55 per hour. Average wages range greatly based on location, experience, and the number of specialty certifications the dental assistant has.
This guide goes over average dental assistant salaries by state, how to earn a higher salary, and what certifications can help you earn more money.
Dental Assistant Salary Overview
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, dental assistants in the United States in 2022 earned between $31,450 and $59,200, with a median salary of $44,820 per year, on average.
This is well above the average pay for other healthcare support staff, who earn a median of $38,810 per year.
Of course, there are several factors that can impact how much a dental assistant earns. These include:
- Years of experience. Employers are willing to pay more for dental assistants who have more experience. Experienced employees are usually more efficient, do not need as much guidance, make fewer mistakes, and are able to work more independently. Most employers offer annual raises to their employees, incentivizing them to stay at the same company.
- Type of facility. While most dental assistants work in private dentist’s offices, that is not where they are paid the highest. The BLS shows that dental assistants working for the government earn the highest salary and those working in physician offices earn the least.
- Location. Like other jobs, the city and state you work in have a big impact on the salary you earn. Dental assistants in States like California and New York will earn more than those working in States like Oklahoma or Utah. However, the cost of living should also be taken into consideration if you’re trying to figure out where to work.
- Certifications. Some facilities will be willing to pay more for dental assistants with extra certifications. Earning certifications in infection control, preventative care, and radiology makes someone a more competitive job applicant and a more valuable employee.
In addition to a good salary, dental assistants have a great job outlook. The BLS predicts that job opportunities for dental assistants will continue to increase at a rate of 7% through 2032. This is higher than the average growth rate of other jobs in the United States.
Dental Assistant Salary by State
Dental Assistant Salary by City
Do Dental Assistants Make Good Money?
Compared to jobs that require similar education and skills, dental assistants make good money. In fact, dental assistants earn more than most comparable healthcare jobs including medical assistants ($38,270), pharmacy technicians ($37,790), and phlebotomists ($37,380).
In addition to a decent salary, full-time dental assistants typically get other valuable benefits from their employers including paid time off, health insurance, dental insurance, and sick leave.
How to Improve Your Chances of Getting a Better Dental Assistant Salary
If you want to earn more money as a dental assistant, you have to make yourself more valuable. There are several ways you can do this, and some of them can be done quickly.
- Get more certifications. If you live in a state that requires certifications for dental assistants, you will already have a dental assisting certification. Additional certifications like orthodontic assisting, preventative care, restorative functions, or advanced infection control can all help you increase your value and give you the confidence to ask for a higher salary.
- Stay on top of the industry & new technologies. Dental assistants spend a lot of time working side by side with the dentist. If you can help make the dentists’ job easier by staying up to date on your skills, understanding new technology, and suggesting improvements in tools or equipment, you will be more likely to earn raises, bonuses, and promotions.
- Ask your manager about opportunities for advancement. Asking to take on more responsibility around the office is a great way to earn a promotion or a raise. If you work in a large office, you might be able to advance to training other employees, becoming an office manager, or working as a shift leader.
- Relocate. If you feel like you earn too little as a dental assistant, you may be able to relocate and earn more. You might move to a city or state with a higher average dental assistant salary, but make sure you consider the cost of living in your new town. Another option is to lengthen your commute to work in a more rural area or in a government or military office where dental assistants tend to earn more money.
- Learn another language. Being bilingual is an extremely helpful skill to have, and many employers are willing to reward employees who can speak more than one language. Rather than just knowing the conversational language, make sure you study different healthcare terms and names of dental procedures.
- Work undesirable hours. Often, employees are paid night-time and weekend differentials for working undesirable hours. If you are willing to work evenings, nights, or weekends in an emergency dental care office, you might be able to earn a higher salary.
- Work for a temp agency. Temp agencies help dental offices find staff to fill in when their employees call in sick or quit. Working for a temp agency can be difficult due to the inconsistency of working hours and location, but they also pay a higher hourly wage.