What Is the Average Salary of a Dental Assistant?
Dental assisting is a career that offers competitive pay, and one that you can enter with just a high school diploma. You can learn the skills to become a dental assistant on-the-job and build experiences that can (with additional education) lead to career advancement. Read this article to learn about the job duties, education requirements, employment outlook and salary for this career.
Duties and Responsibilities
Dental assistants work closely with dentists, but they shouldn't be confused with dental hygienists, who typically need more training. As a dental assistant, you'd update and organize patients' files, sterilize and prepare dental equipment for dental procedures and teach patients about proper dental hygiene between visits. You'd also assist dentists during procedures and may be allowed to perform laboratory tasks, such as making crowns or teeth casts.
Important Facts About Dental Assistants
|On-the-Job Training||Available in addition to traditional education|
|Key Skills||Reading comprehension, clear verbal and written communication, critical thinking, customer service focused, social awareness|
|Work Environment||Dentists offices|
|Similar Occupations||Dental hygienists, medical assistants, pharmacy technicians, surgical technologists, occupational therapy assistants, physical therapist assistants|
Training and Education Requirements
On-the-job training is available for this position, but the completion of short training programs is becoming increasingly common. Some states require dental assistants to obtain a Certified Dental Assistant (CDA) credential through the Dental Assisting National Board (www.danb.org). During training, you will learn:
- Dental terminology
- Names of dental instruments
- How to perform daily duties
- Patient interaction
Employment Statistics and Opportunities
According to the BLS, there were 341,060 people employed as dental assistants as of 2018, and a majority of these people were employed full time. An overwhelming majority work in the offices of dentists, but some also found work in the offices of physicians and outpatient care centers. These professionals commonly become dental hygienists or dental office managers through continuing education, such as an associate's degree in dental hygiene. The BLS also predicted a positive occupational growth of 19% for between 2016-2026. This can be attributed to population growth and the fact that proper dental care is being seen as a more important personal necessity as time passes.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), dental assistants earned an average hourly salary of $19.12 as of May 2018 (www.bls.gov). This results in an average yearly salary of $39,770. With the median salary slightly below the average, at $38,660, the top ten percent of dental assistants earned $54,800 or more per year, while the bottom ten percent earned $26,940 or less per year. Many factors can influence the salary of a dental assistant, including industry, location, certification and experience.
Salary by Industry
The BLS reported that the top two industries employing dental assistants in May 2018 were the offices of dentists and physicians. The mean annual wages for these industries were $39,770 and $36,980, respectively. Nursing care facilities and jobs with state governments paid the highest mean wages in the field, with mean salaries of $44,730 and $44,690, respectively.
Salary by Location
The BLS reported in May 2018 that the highest paying states based on mean annual wages were New Hampshire ($48,760), Alaska ($47,330), Minnesota ($49,880), District of Columbia ($49,220) and North Dakota ($46,640). Some states with lower-than-average wages included Utah ($31,280), New Mexico ($34,870) and Idaho ($34,800).
Salary by Experience
In June 2019, PayScale.com reported that assistants with one year of experience made between $20,000 and $41,000. Those with one to four years of experience made between $20,000 and $42,000. Those with five to nine years of experience made between $23,000 and $45,000, and ten to nineteen years of experience made between $26,000 and $47,000. Those with 20 or more years of experience made between $29,000 and $51,000.