Dental Assistant Salaries

When it comes to career opportunities in healthcare support, dental assistants lead the pack. In fact, according to the American Dental Association, the number of dentists working in the U.S. skyrocketed from 163,000 in 2001 to more than 200,000 in 2019. And where you find dentists, you’re sure to find dental assistants, providing outstanding support services that range from front end office administration to basic assistance with dental procedures.

Dental assisting isn’t just a job; it’s a fulfilling career that comes with a great sense of pride. A 2018 report by the DALE Foundation and Dental Assisting National Board (DANB) revealed what dentists have long known: dental assistants aren’t just helpful – they’re indispensable and highly valued for the support services they provide. According to the report, 99% of all dentists and dental office managers agree that an effective dental assistant contributes significantly to the productivity of the practice. The report also revealed that from boosting patient retention to anticipating the needs of the dentist, dental assistants serve a very important role in the dentist’s office.

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Keep reading to learn more about where a career in dental assisting can take you – and how much you’ll earn when you get there:


The Basics of What Dental Assistants Can Expect in Terms of Job Growth and Income

Salaries for Dental Assistants: How to Boost Your Earning Potential

State-by-State Guide: How Location Affects Dental Assistant Salaries


The Basics of What Dental Assistants Can Expect in Terms of Job Growth and Income

A sense of professional satisfaction isn’t the only thing this profession delivers. Today’s dental assistants enjoy:

  • Plenty of career options – orthodontists, periodontists, pediatric dentists, and more all rely on dental assistants
  • Positive job outlook well into the future – job growth in the profession is expected to increase by 7% between 2019 to 2029, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS)
  • Strong salaries compared to all other professions with similar educational qualifications – dental assistants consistently out-earn other professionals with certificate/diploma-level training

According to the BLS, dental assistants earned an average, annual salary of $41,170 ($19.79/hour), as of May 2019. The top earners in the field (likely those with the CDA certification, significant experience in the field, and expertise in one or more areas of dentistry) earned an average salary of $56,930 ($27.37/hour) during this time.

And with dental assistant certificate and diploma programs taking about 12 months (plus, there’s a few standard-length 24-month associate degree programs) and with no less than 241 of these shorter programs accredited by the Commission on Dental Accreditation (CODA) to choose from, it’s never been easier to become a dental assistant and begin earning a salary that’ll put you on the path to financial independence.

Salaries for Dental Assistants: How to Boost Your Earning Potential

You won’t find a whole lot of consistency when it comes to state regulation of dental assistants. Some states register these dental support pros, while others only register those who perform specific job duties (frequently referred to as expanded duty dental assistants). Some states have specific training and education requirements for dental assistants, while others have none. Finally, some states require a passing score on one, two, or three of the tests within the Dental Assisting National Board’s (DANB) Certified Dental Assistant (CDA) designation:

  • Radiation Health and Safety (RHS)
  • Infection Control (ICE)
  • General Chairside Assisting (GC)

Increasing Your Salary by Earning the CDA

Because of the lack of consistency from one state to the next, you’ll always be well-served by completing a CODA-accredited certificate or diploma program in dental assisting and earning DANB’s CDA designation. You must complete a CODA-accredited program or have at least two years of experience as a dental assistant to qualify for the CDA designation.

Note: The DANB also offers the National Entry Level Dental Assistant (NELDA) designation if you’ve completed a course of education or training that’s not CODA-accredited or if you have a high school diploma and at least 300 hours of work experience as a dental assistant. The NELDA often serves as the ideal stepping-stone for dental assistants working toward the CDA through either education or experience.

According to the DANB 2018-2019 Dental Assistants Salary and Satisfaction Survey, the CDA designation is the key to earning a top wage in the field of dental assisting. The DANB report reveals that the average, hourly wage for dental assistants was $18.59 as of 2018-19. But among those dental assistants who achieved the CDA, the hourly wage was significantly more—$2 more per hour, to be exact, reaching an average hourly rate of $20.76.

Increasing Your Salary Through Experience

It’s clear that hourly wages increase along with experience. In the eyes of most employers, this makes good sense, as seasoned dental assistants bring an outstanding arsenal of skills and knowledge earned through years of on-the-job experience.

According to the DANB report, CDA-certified dental assistants earned the following according to years of experience:

  • Less than one year: $17/hour
  • 1-2 years: $16
  • 3-5 years: $19
  • 6-10 years: $20
  • 11-15 years: $21
  • 16-19 years: $23.12
  • 20+ years: $24

Increasing Your Salary by Specializing

The DANB report also revealed that working in a specialized area of dentistry usually results in a bigger paycheck:

  • Periodontics: $25.50/hour
  • Prosthodontic: $24
  • Pediatric: $22.50
  • Orthodontic: $22
  • Multi-specialty: $20.58
  • Oral surgery: $20
  • Endodontic: $19

You may be able to significantly boost your earning potential in a specialized area or field of dentistry by completing a specialized course of education and/or training and earning one of the DANB’s advanced credentials:

  • Certified Restorative Functions Dental Assistant (CRFDA)
  • Certified Preventive Functions Dental Assistant (CPFDA)
  • Certified Orthodontic Assistant (COA)

State-by-State Guide: How Location Affects Dental Assistant Salaries

Where you live will determine, in large part, how much you can expect to earn as a dental assistant. The DANB report revealed the top-paying states for CDA-certified dental assistants:

  • Delaware: $26.50/hour
  • Wyoming: $25.65
  • Alaska: $25
  • Massachusetts: $25
  • Oklahoma: $24.13
  • Minnesota: $23.73
  • Maine: $23.50
  • New Hampshire: $23
  • New Jersey: $23
  • North Dakota: $23
  • Maryland: $22.50
  • Washington: $22.50
  • Vermont: $22.47
  • California: $22
  • Washington D.C.: $22
  • Nevada: $22

The BLS reported the top-paying states for dental assistants, as of May 2019:

  • Minnesota: $52,220 ($25.10)
  • Alaska: $49,350 ($23.73)
  • New Hampshire: $49,280 ($23.69)
  • Massachusetts: $48,770 ($23.45)
  • North Dakota: $47,140 ($22.66)

And the following top-paying metro areas during this time:

  • Santa Rosa: $56,010 ($26.93)
  • Minneapolis-St. Paul, MN: $54,510 ($26.221)
  • Rochester, MN: $53,010 ($25.49)
  • San Jose, CA (includes Sunnyvale and Santa Clara): $52,380 ($25.18)
  • San Francisco, CA (includes Oakland and Hayward): $51,510 ($24.76)

Take a closer look at the following BLS stats to see where your state ranks when it comes to dental assistant salaries/wages (50th-90th percentile):

  • Alabama: $33,020 – $45,080 ($15.88 – $21.67/hour) (approximately 3,140 dental assistants)
  • Alaska: $47,100 – $67,560 ($22.65 – $32.48/hour) (approximately 960 dental assistants)
  • Arizona: $42,390 – $52,680 ($20.38 – $25.33/hour) (approximately 7,940 dental assistants)
  • Arkansas: $35,500 – $47,210 ($17.07 – $22.70/hour) (approximately 2,780 dental assistants)
  • California: $41,320 – $60,820 ($19.86 – $29.24/hour) (approximately 56,840 dental assistants)
  • Colorado: $41,900 – $56,040 ($20.14 – $26.94/hour) (approximately 8,390 dental assistants)
  • Connecticut: $44,840 – $57,500 ($21.56 – $27.64/hour) (approximately 4,020 dental assistants)
  • Delaware: $40,390 – $61,110 ($19.42 – $29.38/hour) (approximately 770 dental assistants)
  • District of Columbia: $39,000 – $66,580 ($18.75 – $32.01/hour) (approximately 670 dental assistants)
  • Florida: $38,810 – $53,420 ($18.66 – $25.68/hour) (approximately 20,550 dental assistants)
  • Georgia: $39,110 – $53,740 ($18.81 – $25.84/hour) (approximately 8,790 dental assistants)
  • Hawaii: $36,880 – $49,510 ($17.73 – $23.80/hour) (approximately 1,590 dental assistants)
  • Idaho: $34,440 – $45,700 ($16.56 – $21.97/hour) (approximately 2,260 dental assistants)
  • Illinois: $39,560 – $53,180 ($19.02 – $25.57/hour) (approximately 13,170 dental assistants)
  • Indiana: $40,680 – $59,630 ($19.56 – $28.19/hour) (approximately 6,390 dental assistants)
  • Iowa: $41,870 – $52,620 ($20.13 – $25.30/hour) (approximately 3,300 dental assistants)
  • Kansas: $37,310 – $50,630 ($17.94 – $24.34/hour) (approximately 2,970 dental assistants)
  • Kentucky: $36,400 – $50,980 ($17.50 – $24.51/hour) (approximately 4,500 dental assistants)
  • Louisiana: $32,990 – $45,360 ($15.86 – $21.81/hour) (approximately 5,070 dental assistants)
  • Maine: $43,910 – $52,800 ($21.11 – $25.39/hour) (approximately 1,140 dental assistants)
  • Maryland: $41,190 – $58,970 ($19.80 – $28.35/hour) (approximately 6,040 dental assistants)
  • Massachusetts: $48,450 – $63,910 ($23.29 – $30.73/hour) (approximately 8,430 dental assistants)
  • Michigan: $38,540 – $53,040 ($18.53 – $25.51/hour) (approximately 9,610 dental assistants)
  • Minnesota: $51,750 – $63,700 ($24.88 – $30.62/hour) (approximately 5,740 dental assistants)
  • Mississippi: $31,100 – $45,820 ($14.95 – $22.03/hour) (approximately 2,230 dental assistants)
  • Missouri: $39,280 – $50,980 ($18.88 – $24.51/hour) (approximately 5,390 dental assistants)
  • Montana: $36,660 – $49,360 ($17.63 – $23.73/hour) (approximately 1,360 dental assistants)
  • Nebraska: $37,770 – $54,130 ($18.16 – $26.03/hour) (approximately 2,180 dental assistants)
  • Nevada: $38,820 – $50,570 ($18.66 – $24.31/hour) (approximately 2,770 dental assistants)
  • New Hampshire: $48,390 – $63,740 ($23.27 – $30.65/hour) (approximately 1,350 dental assistants)
  • New Jersey: $43,060 – $61,860 ($20.70 – $29.74/hour) (approximately 10,300 dental assistants)
  • New Mexico: $36,380 – $49,530 ($17.49 – $23.81/hour) (approximately 2,830 dental assistants)
  • New York: $39,510 – $56,580 ($18.99 – $27.20/hour) (approximately 19,520 dental assistants)
  • North Carolina: $42,750 – $56,180 ($20.55 – $27.01/hour) (approximately 9,510 dental assistants)
  • North Dakota: $46,360 – $60,800 ($22.28- $29.23/hour) (approximately 790 dental assistants)
  • Ohio: $38,820 – $58,740 ($18.66 – $28.24/hour) (approximately 10,910 dental assistants)
  • Oklahoma: $36,620 – $49,340 ($17.61 – $23.72/hour) (approximately 4,030 dental assistants)
  • Oregon: $46,930 – $60,910 ($22.56 – $29.29/hour) (approximately 4,890 dental assistants)
  • Pennsylvania: $39,170 – $57,390 ($18.83 – $27.59/hour) (approximately 11,400 dental assistants)
  • Rhode Island: $44,430 – $58,820 ($21.36 – $28.28/hour) (approximately 890 dental assistants)
  • South Carolina: $38,660 – $50,650 ($18.59 – $24.35/hour) (approximately 5,020 dental assistants)
  • South Dakota: $39,530 – $52,710 ($19.01 – $25.34/hour) (approximately 990 dental assistants)
  • Tennessee: $38,120 – $53,950 ($18.33 – $25.94/hour) (approximately 5,680 dental assistants)
  • Texas: $38,130 – $51,280 ($18.33 – $24.65/hour) (approximately 31,550 dental assistants)
  • Utah: $32,390 – $41,860 ($15.57 – $20.13/hour) (approximately 5,450 dental assistants)
  • Vermont: $44,210 – $56,470 ($21.25 – $27.15/hour) (approximately 370 dental assistants)
  • Virginia: $42,910 – $63,760 ($20.63 – $30.65/hour) (approximately 8,140 dental assistants)
  • Washington: $44,950 – $60,930 ($21.61 – $29.29/hour) (approximately 10,780 dental assistants)
  • West Virginia: $32,080 – $45,220 ($15.42 – $21.74/hour) (approximately 1,220 dental assistants)
  • Wisconsin: $38,870 – $51,380 ($18.69 – $24.70/hour) (approximately 6,280 dental assistants)
  • Wyoming: $36,670 – $49,640 ($17.63 – $23.87/hour) (approximately 580 dental assistants)

 

Salary and employment data compiled by the United States Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics in May of 2019. Figures represent accumulated data for all employment sectors in which dental assistants work. BLS salary data represents average and median earnings for the occupations listed and includes workers at all levels of education and experience. This data does not represent starting salaries. 

Salary and employment data compiled by the DANB 2018-2019 Dental Assistants Salary and Satisfaction Survey. Figures represent accumulated data for all employment sectors in which dental assistants work. DANB salary data represents average and median earnings for the occupations listed and includes workers at all levels of education and experience. This data does not represent starting salaries. 

All salary and employment data accessed September 2020.

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