Why are some people so angry about the latest dental assistant salary figures?

Kevin Henry of IgniteDA keeps track of dental assisting salary figures. The last time he reported them was in 2017. But he's been surprised at some of the reactions to the latest figures.

May 22nd, 2019
Dad Editor Note Art

Wow! Did my recent article on dental assistant salary numbers light a match under some people! I had a wide range of emails pour in, everything from thanking me for the information to accusing me of starting a dental assisting coup!

Rest assured, the information in the article was not meant to be divisive and it certainly wasn’t intended to start a civil war. I promise you, there is no ulterior motive behind publishing salary figures for dental assistants in each of the 50 states and the District of Columbia. It’s simply a baseline number to let assistants know how much they and their colleagues are making in each state.

 There were plenty of people who drank the Hater-ade about the article, so let me try to address some of their concerns about publishing salary figures.

 If you’ve ever heard me speak or if you’ve read one of my articles, you know I’m a huge believer in dental assistants knowing the numbers in their practices. This includes numbers such as case acceptance rates, patient retention rates, how the practice is doing on hitting its monthly, quarterly, and annual goals, and more. These are numbers where I believe assistants have a direct impact on the direction of their careers. Knowing numbers like these is important for any employee who is empowered to impact the bottom line as much as he or she can.

 Those numbers, of course, do not include salary figures within the practice. No one needs to know how much money everyone is taking home. However, it helps to know an average figure for your profession in your state so you can know where you stand. What you do with that information is up to you. We, of course, hope that assistants will look at their salaries and compare what they take home and think about ways to generate more business for the practice, which will, hopefully and ultimately, come back to them in terms of raises and bonuses.

There's more to compensation than salary

 Speaking of bonuses, several doctors reminded me that there is more to a salary than just the base salary. Some practices have bonus systems, 401K possibilities, insurance for their workers, and other benefits and perks. I completely get that. Yes, every discussion about what assistants take home should include a wide-ranging look at everything that is included in their employment packages.

 There is more to an assistant’s paycheck than just the base in many practices—but not in all of them. It’s hard to compare practices that offer perks versus those that don’t believe in them. That’s why we use the government numbers as a baseline. Not all dental assistants receive bonuses or benefits. They all get a salary, so that’s why we use these numbers as the common denominators among all assistants.

 I encourage every assistant to look at these numbers and think about the factors that go into them, including the other monetary and non-monetary benefits. Maybe you work in a practice where everyone gets along, and you’re strongly encouraged to pursue your passions. Maybe you work in a practice where it’s OK for you to leave a little early or come in a little late because of a personal situation. There are times when these perks are worth their weight in gold. Compassion, understanding, and happiness have no dollar figure attached to them, but they are vital parts of just how satisfied people are in the places they call their work homes.

 I strongly suggest that when you look at a state’s wages, remember that in some cases all parts of the same state are not equal. In New York for example, wages in Rochester may be different than in New York City. In Texas, Houston and Amarillo may present different ends of the dental assistant pay scale. Same thing goes for Seattle and Moses Lake in Washington state. Basically, any state with rural and urban areas is likely to see some differences.

 There are a lot of things that factor into these numbers that are presented by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, and we report them here. There are also plenty of other things that don’t go into thee numbers, including what I’ve talked about here, as well as the experience level and credentials (or lack thereof) of the assistants who were used for this salary compilation.

 As a society, there are times when we want to gripe about something just because we have the ability to gripe about it. That’s the good thing about living in a free country, I suppose. There are also times when we should take a moment and think about things before hitting that send button.

 My wife says, “Numbers tell a story.” She’s exactly right. (I’m a smart husband for saying that, don’t you think?) But sometimes those same numbers don’t tell the entire story. There are often some other numbers that could go alongside them and provide a greater perspective and understanding.

 If you have a question about salaries, let’s talk about it. If you have a question about my reasoning for talking about money, let’s talk about that as well. Let’s work together to find answers, and let’s have a civil discussion. You know I’m always going to work hard to present information that can help dental assistants have the best careers possible. How about you? How can we work together to make that happen?

 #TogetherWeRise

ALSO BY KEVIN HENRY

What do dental assistants really want?

Dental assistant dreads answering phones: What can she do?


An advocate of today’s dental assistant, Kevin Henry speaks to dental audiences across the nation on topics that empower dental assistants, helping them recognize the leadership role they hold in the practice. He is the cofounder of IgniteDA.net, a community designed to enlighten, empower, and educate dental assistants.


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