Dental Assistant Career and Salary

Article Sources


Dental Assistants, Occupational Employment and Wages, Bureau of Labor Statistics, May 2013, http://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes319091.htm

Dental Assistants, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2014-15 Edition, Bureau of Labor Statistics, January 8, 2014, http://www.bls.gov/ooh/healthcare/dental-assistants.htm

Dental Hygienists, Occupational Employment and Wages, Bureau of Labor Statistics, May 2013, http://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes292021.htm

Dental Hygienists, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2014-15 Edition, Bureau of Labor Statistics, January 8, 2014, http://www.bls.gov/ooh/healthcare/dental-hygienists.htm

Summary Report for Dental Assistants, O*Net OnLine, U.S. Department of Labor, 2013, http://www.onetonline.org/link/summary/31-9091.00

Summary Report for Dental Hygienists, O*Net OnLine, U.S. Department of Labor, 2013, http://www.onetonline.org/link/summary/29-2021.00

"What can a career in Dental Hygiene offer you?," American Dental Association (ADA), accessed June 2014, http://www.ada.org/en/home-ada/education-careers/careers-in-dentistry/dental-team-careers/dental-hygienist


Careers in dental assisting and dental hygiene involve working alongside dentists to provide direct, hands-on patient care while also overseeing many of the important day-to-day functions of dental offices. They are a critical bridge between patients and dentists.

Dental hygienists are specially trained to perform important dental care procedures, including removing plaque and tartar, applying sealants and fluoride, taking and developing x-rays, tracking treatment plans and providing oral hygiene advice to patients, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS.gov).

The BLS also reports that dental assistants tend to handle more of the administrative tasks of dental offices -- maintaining patient files, processing x-rays, scheduling patient appointments and billing. However, they also perform some patient care duties, including sterilizing and preparing instruments, processing x-rays and labs, assisting dentists during procedures, and generally making sure patients are comfortable.

Dental hygiene and assisting job prospects

Because of numerous factors affecting the dental industry -- the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, a rapidly growing senior population, increasing awareness of preventive care and oral hygiene, and improving technology -- the BLS projects dental hygienist and dental assistant careers are expected to grow much faster than the average for all occupations between 2012 and 2022.

Dental assistant careers are projected to grow 25 percent during that time, due to dentists relying more on these professionals to handle daily tasks so they can see more patients. Some practices may hire assistants with no formal training, although certificate and degree programs exist for these professions.

Meanwhile, dentists will increasingly rely on dental hygienists to perform routine care -- cleanings, x-rays, etc. -- as they increasingly perform specialized procedures. Dental hygienist jobs are projected to grow 33 percent from 2012 to 2022. They are required to have specialized training due to the amount of patient care they provide, with the minimum being an associate's degree in dental hygiene. Licensure is required in all states.

Dental assisting and hygiene salaries

According to the BLS, the national median hourly wage for dental assistants in May 2013 was $16.78, and the median annual wage was $34,900. Dental hygienists tend to earn more because of their advanced training and the services they provide. In May 2013, the national median hourly wage was $34.19, and the median annual wage was $71,110. A large percentage (one-third to one-half) of these professionals work part time.

Source: 2015 Occupational Employment Statistics and 2014-24 Employment Projections, Bureau of Labor Statistics, BLS.gov.

CareerProjected Number of New JobsProjected Job Growth Rate
Dental Assistants58,60018.4
Source: 2015 Occupational Employment Statistics and 2014-24 Employment Projections, Bureau of Labor Statistics, BLS.gov.

Educational attainment for dental assisting and hygiene

Those currently employed as dental hygienists and dental assistants have achieved the following educational attainment, according to the U.S. Department of Labor's O*Net:

Dental hygienists:

  • Associate degree: 79 percent
  • Bachelor's degree: 21 percent
  • Post-baccaulaureate certificate: 1 percent

Dental assistants:

  • Post-secondary certificate: 63 percent
  • Associate degree: 12 percent
  • High school diploma or equivalent: 9 percent

There are more than 250 dental-assisting training programs and 300 hygienist programs accredited by the American Dental Association in the U.S. If you'd like to learn more about either of these careers, explore the programs available through this site.

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Dental Assistant (10-Month Diploma Program)
UEI College , El Monte
  • Dedicated to providing  career training since 1975.
  • Has 13 campus locations in Southern California and a campus in Morrow, GA.
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Dental Assistant
  • Offers career placement assistance services to recent graduates.
  • Our short-term allied health programs will give you the skills and knowledge to become a part of the exciting health care field.
  • Programs include Medical Office Specialist, Medical Assistant, Dental Assistant and Healthcare Administration.
  • Accredited by the Accrediting Bureau of Health Education Schools (ABHES).
  • Main campus is located in Van Nuys, California, north of Los Angeles.
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Certificate - Dental Assistant
  • Many programs require externships, allowing students to gain real-world experience.
  • Approved A+ rating from the Better Business Bureau (BBB) since 1984.
  • Offers 22 accelerated, career-focused program options including business administration, medical assisting, and more.
  • Regionally accredited by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC).
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Dental Assistant
  • Offers career programs in accounting, cosmetology, massage therapy, physical fitness training, and more.
  • Provides hands-on training led by instructors who have relevant, on-the-job experience.
  • Each campus features a public salon and spa for student practice.
  • Campuses are accredited by the Accrediting Council for Continuing Education and Training (ACCET) and Council on Occupational Education (COE).
  • 11 campuses across California, Texas, Nevada and Idaho, as well as 8 additional Milan Institute of Cosmetology campuses.
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Diploma - Medical Administrative Assistant

  • Career Training Online: Ultimate Medical Academy is committed to helping you succeed in a healthcare career. That’s why we offer assistance from the very beginning, throughout training, and even after you graduate.
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Medical Assisting
Platt College , Alhambra
  • A Los Angeles-based private college offering programs in medical sciences, legal studies, and graphic design since 1985.
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    Advanced College , South Gate

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      Mayfield College , Cathedral City
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      Professional Medical Assistant
      • A part of the Select Education Group (SEG).
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      • California campuses accredited by the Accrediting Commission of Career Schools and Colleges (ACCSC), and accreditation for the Salem campus from the Accrediting Council for Continuing Education and Training (ACCET).
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