Dental Assistant Salary Information

A dental assistant is often seen as a dentist’s extra pair of hands, but with developments in the profession in recent years they have become much more than that.

Depending on what a particular State’s laws allow, dental assistants can now be found doing quite specialized and varied tasks. This means their role inside the dentist’s office has become more pronounced, and as a result, the dental assistant salary has seen a continuing increase over time.

How Much Can Be Made On A Dental Assistant Salary?

Typically, a dental assistant helps a dentist or other treating dental auxiliary like dental hygienists, dental therapists, or dental technicians, provide efficient dental treatment to a patient. Dental assistants do this by preparing the patient for treatment, sterilizing and organizing the needed instruments, passing instruments during the procedure, holding a suction device, and other routine tasks that a dentist may ask the assistant to do.

Many States are now looking to expand the dental assistants’ duties to include such tasks as coronal polishing and restorative dentistry functions for those assistants who meet specific training and experience requirements. Incidentally, dental assistants that are formally trained, with certification, or have extensive experience are paid a higher dental assistant salary.

As of May 2010, the mean annual dental assistant salary is about $34,140 or $16.41 an hour, according to the Bureau if Labor statistics (BLS). Incidentally, the mean annual salary of those that are working in dentist offices is $34,120 because the majority of dental assistants work in that setting, with 272,080 recorded dental assistants working there, out of the 285,410 total dental assistants working in the United States.

The second most number of employed dental assistants, around 4,990 individuals, was in physicians’ offices and they earn $31,540 in mean annual dental assistant salary. Those that are working in a Federal Executive Branch (OES designation) were in third with 3,610 dental assistants. These dental assistants earn the most amongst their peers, with a mean annual salary of $38,130.

The dental assistant salary range is remarkably broad, and the way to put yourself on the higher end of the scale is with additional formal training, certification, and experience. To illustrate, Certified Dental Assistants or CDA’s, can earn anywhere from $25,550 to $36,797 a year. Registered Dental Assistants, on the other hand, can earn $28,091 to $40,832 a year. An X-ray Certified Dental Assistant receives on average $25,341 to 35,076 annually.

When it comes to the top paying States for this occupation, the District of Columbia is clearly in front with $47,630 in mean annual dental assistant salary, followed by the State of Alaska with $42,020. The States of Minnesota, New Hampshire, and Connecticut round up the top five States that pay the highest dental assistant salary.

Most States don’t have any requirement to be hired in an entry-level dental assistant position. There is no formal education, training or certification requirements for this position, although employers tend to hire those with formal training and certification first; plus the years of experience that comes from working as a dental assistant always comes in handy. For certain expanded functions that a particular State has allowed, they may require licensure or registration from dental assistants who wish to work and perform such tasks.

There are very limited career advancement opportunities for those dental assistants without some form of further education. To ensure this won’t happen to you, and to earn a higher dental assistant salary, it is highly recommended to sign up to an accredited dental-assisting training program which the Commission on Dental Accreditation has approved.

Comprehensive Dental Assistant Salary Range

Dental assistants play a crucial role along with technicians, hygienists and dentists in orthodontic centers. A dental technician works in dental clinics or multi-specialty hospitals that offer dental care and orthodontic services. Because an increasing number of people regard dental and orthodontic procedures to be a vital part of their overall healthcare regimen, there has been a massive increase in the demand for qualified professionals in the dental sub-sector. Apart from a profusion of employment prospects, qualified professionals can also look forward to an impressive dental assistant salary and benefits. So, if you are interested in dental assistant careers, here is a look at the job responsibilities, average dental assistant salary and what you can do to augment your earnings.

The Job Responsibilities of a Dental Assistant

A dental assistant is responsible for a myriad of duties from basic office work which may include book keeping, fixing appointments etc to more complex orthodontic tasks such as preparing the oral cavity for the placement of the crowns, cleaning the teeth of contamination and microorganisms before a procedure, managing asepsis, polishing teeth, cementation etc. The duties entrusted to a professional and the dental technician salary offered for his/her work will largely depend on the qualifications and experience of an individual. For instance, a specialization can enable a dental hygienist to help out in orthodontic surgery.

However, with the most basic qualifications in hand, a professional may only be asked to perform regular duties such as sterilizing the equipment needed to perform various dental procedure; preparing the room for the dentist and the patient, maintaining client records including X-rays and offering oral health care instructions to patients. On the other hand, depending on the type of specialization that you hold, you may even be expected to process dental X-rays, assist in the management of dental emergencies and perform dental laboratory work.

The Educational Qualifications Required

Like in all other sectors, higher qualification equates to better job prospects and a significant increase in salary. While a lot of employers do provide on job training, many establishments will expect people interested in the position of a dental assistant to at least have a two semester certification course. On the other hand, larger dental clinics may even ask for a two year associate degree. While licensing is not mandatory if you intend to perform generic dental assistant duties, many states have mandated licensing for professionals who intend to assist in radiological procedures. Training to become a dental assistant is offered by several healthcare training schools across the country and most courses along with the certification can be completed in 24 months or less.

To earn a state recognized and offered certification, you will need to pass a three part exam which is conduced by the Dental Assisting National Board. The components of the certification exam include Infection Control, Radiation Health and Safety and General Chairside Practices.

For professionals keen on increasing their dental assistant salary, expanded and specialization programs are also available. However, these courses are only offered by certain schools; for instance, if you are interested in the expanded dental assisting certificate program, you will need to approach a school which offers such a course accredited by the Commission of Dental Accreditation.

These programs are usually offered in community colleges and technical schools and the typical training duration is six months to one year. On the other hand, a two year associate’s program will be ideal for people interested in a higher level of knowledge. The course work for the program includes subjects such as dental materials, dental morphology, office management, oral biology and dental radiology.

Guide To Dental Assistant Salary

Curated data shows that the hourly wages of dental assistants are in the range of $9.15 to $22.86 with the prospect of making time and a half for overtime. Some clinics may also offer bonuses in the range of $100 to $2000 while others may provide profit sharing to the tune of $500 to $3000. Together, this brings the average dental assistant salary from $19,040 to $47,550. According to BLS data, more than 90% of these professionals work in the private clinics of dentists and they make a median dental assistant salary of $34,120 while people who work in the federal government draw higher dental assistant salary of almost $38,130 per annum.

The top 10% of the professionals make a whopping $47,090 as opposed to the bottom 10% who merely draw in a dental assistant salary of $22,680. The starting pay package of a person right out of a technical college is usually $11 per hour; however, after accumulating five or more years of experience, it’s easy to make $15 per hour. The general range of dental assistant salary stood at $13 to $19 in 2010. However, mobile dental practices offered higher wages while professionals who had radiology experience and were capable of taking X-rays were offered a higher dental assistant salary of $20 per hour.

Specialization can also add significantly to dental assistant salary; professional who work with specialist dentist make more than those who work for dental clinics that offer regular services. For instance, endodontist assistants regularly draw $16 per hour while orthodontic assistants make $18. The dental assistant salary increases further for oral surgeon assistants who earn $18.50 and for periodontal assistants who draw the highest wages of $19 per hour.

Benefits And Perks Associated With The Dental Assistant Salary

Dental assistants are usually offered generous benefits and bonuses which add greatly to the total compensation package of a professional. The benefits offered include retirement funds, health care and dental plan, time off and others.

Location And Its Impact On Dental Assistant Salary

The geographical location can also make a huge difference to dental assistant salary. So when choosing a job, you should consider states that offer the maximum salary but have the lowest cost of living. Generally, states in the Northeast offer the highest dental assistant salaries; these include:

• District of Columbia- $47,630
• Alaska- $42,020
• New Hampshire – $41,640
• Minnesota- $41,170

The states that offer the highest dental assistant salary are at times a real head scratcher; after all, who would’ve thought that Alaska offers that high earning potential for dental assistants. However, before packing your bags for the Last Frontier, you may want to consider the cost of living in Alaska, which is higher than most other states given the scarcity of resources. In stark contrast to the impressive average dental assistant salary of Alaska is Utah which offers a dismal median salary of just $29,560

How Do Experience And Nature Of Training Affect Dental Assistant Salary?

While experience does have a bearing on dental assistant salary, the effect is minimal with wages only going up by a few hundred dollars for every year of experience. Other factors such as the place of employment can also influence dental assistant salary. For instance, professionals employed in clinics that offer family dentistry services earn the highest salary; followed by dental assistants working with establishments that offer dental prosthetic services and orthodontics. Pediatric dentistry centers come in a close third while healthcare clinics offer the lowest wages.

There is also a slight disparity in the dental assistant salary earned by men and women, with the fairer sex drawing higher wages than the guys. Apart from this, educational qualifications will without a doubt impact dental assistant salary. As a matter of fact, experienced dental assistants who are keen on furthering their careers and augmenting their dental assistant salary should consider getting certified. This will not help them to draw higher salary but will also open up new doors for greater job opportunities.

With an increasing number of dentists relying on dental assistants to take care of general duties while only reserving the most complex tasks for themselves, there is a huge demand for qualified professionals. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, jobs in the sector are expected to grow by a massive 29% until 2016. So, if you are looking for a fulfilling and rewarding career which does not require you to slog away for four or more years in a top college, dental assistant jobs will be just right for you. Add the increasing dental assistant salary to the equation and its easy to understand why many people are drawn to jobs in the sector.