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.

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.

Hourly Wage$11.63$13.85$16.78$20.19$23.27
Weekly Wage$465$554$671$808$931
Monthly Salary$2,017$2,400$2,908$3,500$4,033
Annual Salary$24,200$28,800$34,900$42,000$48,400

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.

RankIndustriesHourly WageWeekly WageMonthly SalaryAnnual SalaryEmployment Level
1Management of Companies and Enterprises$31.44$1,258$5,450$65,40080
2General Medical and Surgical Hospitals, State government owned$20.82$833$3,608$43,300100
3Hospitals, State government owned$19.81$792$3,433$41,200300
4Specialty (except Psychiatric and Substance Abuse) Hospitals (including private, state, and local government hospitals)$18.89$756$3,275$39,300100
5Federal government, including the US Postal Service$18.65$746$3,233$38,800 4,000
6Federal Executive Branch$18.65$746$3,233$38,800 4,000
7Specialty hospitals, Privately owned$18.61$744$3,225$38,700100
8Psychiatric and Substance Abuse Hospitals, State government owned$18.41$737$3,192$38,300100
9State Government, excluding schools and hospitals$18.41$737$3,192$38,300 2,000
10Federal, 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.

RankSalaries by StatesHourly WageWeekly WageMonthly SalaryAnnual SalaryEmployment Level
1New Hampshire$21.06$842$3,650$43,800 1,000
2Alaska$20.82$833$3,608$43,300 1,000
3Minnesota$20.63$825$3,575$42,900 5,000
4Massachusetts$20.14$806$3,492$41,900 7,000
5Connecticut$19.57$783$3,392$40,700 4,000
6Washington$19.23$769$3,333$40,000 9,000
7North Dakota$19.18$767$3,325$39,900700
8Oregon$19.04$762$3,300$39,600 5,000
9New Jersey$18.85$754$3,267$39,200 9,000

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.

RankSalaries by StatesHourly WageWeekly WageMonthly SalaryAnnual SalaryEmployment Level
1Utah$13.41$537$2,325$27,900 5,000
2West Virginia$13.85$554$2,400$28,800 1,000
3Louisiana$14.09$563$2,442$29,300 4,000
4Mississippi$14.42$577$2,500$30,000 2,000
5Arkansas$14.66$587$2,542$30,500 2,000
6Alabama$14.81$592$2,567$30,800 3,000
7Idaho$14.90$596$2,583$31,000 2,000
8Oklahoma$14.95$598$2,592$31,100 4,000
9Nebraska$15.00$600$2,600$31,200 2,000
10South Dakota$15.10$604$2,617$31,400800

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.

RankMetropolitan CitiesHourly WageWeekly WageMonthly SalaryAnnual SalaryEmployment Level
1San Francisco-San Mateo-Redwood City, CA$23.51$940$4,075$48,9002,000
2Haverhill-North Andover-Amesbury, MA-NH$23.22$929$4,025$48,300200
3Lowell-Billerica-Chelmsford, MA-NH$21.73$869$3,767$45,200300
4Nashua, NH-MA$21.11$844$3,658$43,900300
5Boston-Cambridge-Quincy, MA$20.63$825$3,575$42,9003,000
6Newark-Union, NJ-PA$20.53$821$3,558$42,7002,000
7Peabody, MA$20.53$821$3,558$42,700300
8Seattle-Bellevue-Everett, WA$20.38$815$3,533$42,4004,000
9Bethesda-Rockville-Frederick, MD$20.29$812$3,517$42,2001,000
10Framingham, MA$20.14$806$3,492$41,900300

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.

RankNon-Metropolitan AreasHourly WageWeekly WageMonthly SalaryAnnual SalaryEmployment Level
1Southeast Alaska$22.16$887$3,842$46,10090
2Southwestern New Hampshire$21.78$871$3,775$45,30080
3Other New Hampshire$21.39$856$3,708$44,500200
4Southwestern Washington$21.25$850$3,683$44,200200
5Southeast Minnesota$21.20$848$3,675$44,100400
6Western Central Nevada$20.43$817$3,542$42,50080
7Western New Hampshire$20.34$813$3,525$42,30090
8Southwest Minnesota$20.29$812$3,517$42,200200
9Mother Lode Region of California$20.14$806$3,492$41,900200
10Coastal Oregon$19.66$787$3,408$40,900200

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.

RankStatesHourly WageWeekly WageMonthly SalaryAnnual SalaryEmployment Level
3New York$17.12$685$2,967$35,60018,000
8North Carolina$17.98$719$3,117$37,4009,000
9New Jersey$18.85$754$3,267$39,2009,000

Job Outlook

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 
Employment, 2012 303,200
Projected Employment, 2022 377,600
Employment Difference: 74,400
Dental Assistants25%
Health Care Support Occupations28%
Total, all occupations11%

Source: Bureau of Labor and Statistics

Dental Assistant Job Description

dental assistant salary data

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

salaries of dental assistantsAs 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.

Education Requirements

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.