According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median annual salary for dental hygienists is $71,720. The lowest 10% earned less than $50,560, while the top 10% earned more than $102,340.
The average hourly wage was $32.33. Hourly wages varied little by industry: private practice ($32.30), public health agencies ($31.95), and offices of other health practitioners ($31.74) were all within a narrow range from one another.
Among educational preparation levels, those with an associate’s degree had the lowest salaries (median: $61,840), whereas those with a bachelor’s degree had the highest salaries (median: $76,510).
The average dental hygienist salary with an associates degree is $37,000. This is a low-paying job, but it’s still significantly higher than the average salary for a high school graduate.
Dental hygienists are also in demand and can expect to see their salaries increase over time.
The average dental hygienist salary with an associates degree is $53,000 per year.
Dental hygienists who hold associate degrees typically earn more than those with less education. On average, dental hygienists with associate degrees earn about $5,000 more than those with just a high school diploma. Those with bachelor’s degrees can expect to earn even more, at an average of $9,000 more per year than their counterparts without higher education.
Dental Hygienist Salary With An Associates Degree
With interesting, hands-on work, above-average salaries, and plenty of person-to-person interaction, dental hygienists get the opportunity to serve people in a healthcare capacity while also connecting to them as healthcare educators.
The field is growing faster than average at 6%, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), so starting a program now could result in fairly immediate employment when you are licensed. When you want to know how much dental hygienists make, however, you have to look at each dental hygiene salary through the lens of seniority, location, and employer.
How Much Does a Dental Hygienist Make?
Once hygienists train in the basics of oral hygiene, evaluating oral health, and advising people on dental health maintenance, they can make a competitive income, averaging $78,050 a year. This is high compared to the average salary of $56,310 for all professions, according to the BLS.
That said, there are areas of the country where dental hygienists are in high demand, so you could make more, and given the high hourly pay (over $37 per hour on average), many people also choose to work part-time as dental hygienists.
Dental Hygienists Salary Per State
Data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS)
Salary Changes Per Dental Hygienist Career
Starting salaries are modest or even high in the dental hygiene field, and entry into dental hygiene programs tends to be competitive.
- Entry-Level Dental Hygienist
- Management-Level Dental Hygienist
The lowest 10% of dental hygienists make at or below $54,200, meaning you could make nearly the national average for all occupations in your first role.
Because dental hygiene is a stable career with quite a few perks, many people remain in this field for their entire careers, meaning turnover is low, and you may spend more time searching for a position. While finding an entry-level role may take some time, one way to get a foot in the door is to work for a dentist who needs help a few days a week.
Dental Hygienist Jobs & Career Growth Opportunities
In most states, the prospects for joining the dental hygiene field are good, with the field growing at a 6% rate compared to the average of 4% for all occupations.
The following states have the highest concentrations of dental hygienist jobs relative to the population:
- New Hampshire
The top three metropolitan areas that pay among the highest dental hygienist salaries were all in California. They all average over $118,000 and include:
- Santa Maria-Santa Barbara
- San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara
- Santa Rosa
Benefits of Becoming a Dental Hygienist
BenefitsMany dental hygienists work full-time at a single office, qualifying them for benefits packages that typically include health insurance plans, dental insurance, and paid time off.
Continued EducationWhen new techniques or certifications are available, such as new strategies for restorative dentistry, some dental practices will pay for dental hygienists to get additional training or education.
Professional Organization MembershipsThere also may be assistance for professional memberships like the American Dental Hygienists’ Association (ADHA), as well as continuing education credits to maintain your licensure. Whether these are your responsibility will vary by employer, but it is good to ask about these possibilities when considering a job offer.
How Much Does it Cost to Become a Dental Hygienist?
According to the American Dental Education Association (ADEA), an associate degree in dental hygiene can cost $22,692. Typically, you only need an associate degree to begin working, and there is often federal aid available to help with education costs. Learn more about becoming a dental hygienist.
Most states also charge for a licensure exam, though the costs vary. Otherwise, your dental practice will typically provide your necessary materials and equipment.
Other Job Opportunities
Familiarity with dental practices can lead to many other opportunities in dentistry and beyond.
- Public Health Specialists: A variety of roles that encompass education and healthcare delivery, as well as health promotions programming. Knowledge of dental health can give you an advantage.
- Dental Hygiene Educator: After working as a dental hygienist, some additional training can help you move into a role where you train future dental hygienists.
- Dentist: Dental hygienists sometimes choose to pursue dental school and found their own dental practices.
- Registered Nurse: If you are looking for additional opportunities in the healthcare world, completing an RN degree can prepare you for nursing in many fields. Moving into the world beyond dental healthcare, you might also consider becoming a medical assistant or physician assistant.