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 in the United States?

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.

Salary Changes Throughout the Career Path

Starting salaries are modest or even high in the dental hygiene field, and entry into dental hygiene programs tends to be competitive.

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.

Bachelor's degrees in dental hygiene, advanced dental hygiene practitioner programs, and seniority-based advancement can all help dental hygienists find mid-level and senior-level roles within their practices.

You may find yourself with more responsibility than the practice's entry-level hygienists and dental assistants. These roles typically come with pay increases, but those are driven by base pay in your area and whether you work, for instance, for the government versus private practice. Mean annual wages for dental hygienists who work for the government, for instance, were $10,000 lower than private dentistry dental hygienists in 2020.

Other Job Opportunities for Dental Hygienists

Familiarity with dental practices can lead to many other opportunities in dentistry and beyond.

Pay Difference By Location: Dental Hygienists Salary By State

State

Data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS)

Career Opportunities and Job Growth

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:

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:

Other Benefits of Becoming a Dental Hygienist

Benefits
Many 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 Education
When 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 Memberships
There 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.

Salaries for Related Jobs

Dental hygiene as a specialty can be helpful when retraining into any of the following jobs:

Dental Hygiene Educator

  • Salary: $74,331
  • Cost to become: Dental hygiene accredited degree, continuing education costs.

Dentist

  • Salary: $164,010
  • Cost to become: Bachelor's and Doctoral degrees, licensure and exams, continuing education costs.

Registered Nurse

  • Salary: $75,330
  • Cost to become: 2-4 years tuition at an accredited program, NCLEX exam, licensure costs, continuing education costs.

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Laura Leavitt
Contributing Writer

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