The average dental assistant salary in the United States is $35k and is expected to increase depending on how many years of experience. Dental assistants perform a variety of tasks that range from helping the dentist with treatment procedures to taking x-rays and scheduling appointments.
While some practices do require assistants to be certified or registered, some states do not require a college degree and allow them to learn as they work.
That being said, the education is relatively minimal, usually only nine to eleven months, and the salary of a dental assistant can be quite high and rewarding.
- 1 Average Dental Assistant Salary
- 2 Best Industries for Dental Assistants
- 3 Top Paying States for Dental Assistants
- 4 Lowest Paying States for Dental Assistants
- 5 Salary of Dental Assistants by Top Metropolitan Cities
- 6 Top Non-Metropolitan Areas to be a Dental Assistant
- 7 Highest Dental Assistant Employment Level by States
- 8 Job Outlook
- 9 Dental Assistant Job Description
- 10 Dental Assistant Salaries by State, Major Cities, and Industries
- 11 Education Requirements
- 12 Is it Hard Finding Employment?
Average Dental Assistant Salary
The average salary for dental assistants is $36k which is about $17 an hour. The lowest percentile earned $24k a year, while the top percentile earned twice as much.
The biggest factor for where you fall in is experience, so expect your starting salary to be closer to the bottom percentiles. As you gain more experience, you can expect to earn in the higher percentiles.
Best Industries for Dental Assistants
The #1 industry for dental assistants are corporations, particularly the insurance carriers. This is followed by general hospitals, public hospitals, specialty hospitals, and the federal government. All top five industries hourly wage falls between $18 – $21 an hour.
|Rank||Industries||Hourly Wage||Weekly Wage||Monthly Salary||Annual Salary||Employment Level|
|1||Management of Companies and Enterprises||$31.44||$1,258||$5,450||$65,400||80|
|2||General Medical and Surgical Hospitals, State government owned||$20.82||$833||$3,608||$43,300||100|
|3||Hospitals, State government owned||$19.81||$792||$3,433||$41,200||300|
|4||Specialty (except Psychiatric and Substance Abuse) Hospitals (including private, state, and local government hospitals)||$18.89||$756||$3,275||$39,300||100|
|5||Federal government, including the US Postal Service||$18.65||$746||$3,233||$38,800||4,000|
|6||Federal Executive Branch||$18.65||$746||$3,233||$38,800||4,000|
|7||Specialty hospitals, Privately owned||$18.61||$744||$3,225||$38,700||100|
|8||Psychiatric and Substance Abuse Hospitals, State government owned||$18.41||$737||$3,192||$38,300||100|
|9||State Government, excluding schools and hospitals||$18.41||$737||$3,192||$38,300||2,000|
|10||Federal, State, and Local Government, excluding state and local schools and hospitals, and the US Postal Service||$18.37||$735||$3,183||$38,200||7,000|
Top Paying States for Dental Assistants
There isn’t much of a gap in dental assistant salaries between states. New Hampshire topped the list with a monthly salary of $3.6k, followed closely by Minnesota at the same pay. For a full list, please see the dental assistant salary by state.
|Rank||Salaries by States||Hourly Wage||Weekly Wage||Monthly Salary||Annual Salary||Employment Level|
Lowest Paying States for Dental Assistants
Not including Puerto Rico, the lowest paying state in the US for dental assistants is Utah with a lackluster $28k yearly salary. West Virginia was close behind with an average salary of $29k. While the pay varies between states, something to also consider is a potential lower standard of living.
|Rank||Salaries by States||Hourly Wage||Weekly Wage||Monthly Salary||Annual Salary||Employment Level|
Salary of Dental Assistants by Top Metropolitan Cities
The top paying metropolitan area in the US is in the Bay Area of California. This includes San Francisco, San Mateo, and Redwood City with an average annual dental assistant salary of $49k. Coming in at #2 on the list are Haverhill, North Andover, and Amesbury in Massachusetts at $48k per year.
|Rank||Metropolitan Cities||Hourly Wage||Weekly Wage||Monthly Salary||Annual Salary||Employment Level|
|1||San Francisco-San Mateo-Redwood City, CA||$23.51||$940||$4,075||$48,900||2,000|
|2||Haverhill-North Andover-Amesbury, MA-NH||$23.22||$929||$4,025||$48,300||200|
Top Non-Metropolitan Areas to be a Dental Assistant
Non-metropolitan areas had salaries that were quite comparable to the major cities. The highest paying state for dental assistants is in Southeast Alaska with a salary of $46k. Not surprisingly, Southwestern New Hampshire made the #2 spot at $45k.
|Rank||Non-Metropolitan Areas||Hourly Wage||Weekly Wage||Monthly Salary||Annual Salary||Employment Level|
|2||Southwestern New Hampshire||$21.78||$871||$3,775||$45,300||80|
|3||Other New Hampshire||$21.39||$856||$3,708||$44,500||200|
|6||Western Central Nevada||$20.43||$817||$3,542||$42,500||80|
|7||Western New Hampshire||$20.34||$813||$3,525||$42,300||90|
|9||Mother Lode Region of California||$20.14||$806||$3,492||$41,900||200|
Highest Dental Assistant Employment Level by States
By far, California had the most number of employed dental assistants at over 46k. Texas came in a distant second with nearly 24k. Clearly, California would be the best place for those looking to become dental assistants as we expect more opportunities as well as higher wages.
|Rank||States||Hourly Wage||Weekly Wage||Monthly Salary||Annual Salary||Employment Level|
The number of dental assistants is expected to grow about 25%, which is not as high as the 28% growth in healthcare support jobs. Nonetheless, this career field is expected to grow more than twice as fast as all occupations in the US.
|Employment Projections Data for Dental Assistants, 2012-2022|
|Projected Employment, 2022||377,600|
|Health Care Support Occupations||28%|
|Total, all occupations||11%|
Source: Bureau of Labor and Statistics
Dental Assistant Job Description
A dental assistant is the core of any dentist office. Their general and most important role is caring for the patient and helping the dentist with a variety of treatment procedures.
However, depending on the type of practice, they can also be found assisting the dentist with a variety of responsibilities. In general, a dental assistant must be able to handle tasks involving the patient such as retrieving a patient’s medical history, preparing the patient for their procedures, educating patients with oral care instructions (before and after their treatment) and ways to appropriately maintain oral hygiene and health.
In addition to providing patient care, a dental assistant may also be responsible for exposing and developing x-rays, cleaning teeth, taking impressions and applying fluoride and sealants, sterilizing and disinfecting instruments, and managing the business aspect of dentistry including scheduling appointments, bookkeeping, and accounting.
Dental Assistant Salaries by State, Major Cities, and Industries
As you can see, these activities require special knowledge and can range from cleaning teeth with dental instruments to educating patients with ways to maintain healthy oral hygiene. That being the case, dental assistants are compensated a generous wage.
The starting salary of dental assistants greatly depends on many factors including being a certified versus registered, location, and type of practice. For example, by location, you can earn as high as $42,000 working in Minnesota to as low as $27,000 working in Utah.
Additionally, by industry, you can make about $41,000 working in the Insurance Carriers industry, and about $32,200 in a physician’s office. Below is a breakdown of salaries of dental assistants in proportion to its state, major cities, and industries.
What comes with great pay usually require thorough knowledge and education. As noted earlier, the variety of activities a dental assistant engages in require a deep understanding of the field.
Dentists and the like may also require you to be certified or a graduate from an accredited program, but don’t let that discourage you. Some places may allow you to start working immediately and train you as you work. If additional education is required, there are literally hundreds of dental assistant programs (all accredited by the Commission of Dental Association) available within the United States.
Typically, these programs take nine to eleven months to complete. If you find yourself busy with life, that’s fine. Many programs are aware that people have bills to pay. Depending on your needs, many colleges, institutions, and technical schools offer part-time, fast-paced, and online dental assistant programs (distance learning).
Is it Hard Finding Employment?
Not at all. Fortunately, dentists usually require many dental assistants. Additionally, there are many types of dental practices, thus, creating more opportunities to applicants. If you prefer working in an intimate and small environment, then consider applying for a solo practice.A solo practice is a practice with one dentist who typically has one to two dental assistants. If you prefer a bigger and busier environment, then consider applying for a group practice, which is a practice with two or more dentists with multiple dental assistants.
Specialty practices include: oral and maxilliofacial surgery (the removal of teeth and adjustment of facial deformities), orthodontics and dentofacial orthopedics (straightening the teeth with braces), endodontics (the treatment of root canal), periodontics (the treatment of gum problems), prosthodontics (the replacement of lost teeth), and pediatric dentistry (the general teeth treatment with children).
Other notable sectors are within the public health dentistry (assisting in a school setting), hospital dentistry clinics (assisting in a hospital setting), and dental schools (assisting dental students in a classroom setting with dental treatment procedures).
What if being a Dental Assistant isn’t for me? If the career of a dental assistant does not appeal you, there are a variety of careers related to dental assistants. Below is a list of similar careers and average salaries:
- Dental Hygienist: $70,000
- Medical Assistants: $29,400
- Occupational Therapy Assistants and Aides: $49,000
- Pharmacy Technicians: $29,300
- Physical Therapist Assistants and Aides: $39,400
- Surgical Technologists: $41,800
In conclusion, becoming a dental assistant can be gratifying. With a high pay and high demand, many individuals pursue this career path in hopes of a lucrative dental assistant salary. Even though this position may require additional education, the accredited academic programs available only require nine to eleven months to complete, a goal that is foreseeable and achievable.