Bureau of Labor Statistics unveils latest salary information for dental assistants

There's a new state at number one for paying dental assistants better than the other 49 states. How do the salaries in your state compare, and what can you do to help increase your own salary?

May 15th, 2017
Content Dam Diq Online Articles 2017 05 Money 1

There's a new state at number one for paying dental assistants better than the other 49 states. How do the salaries in your state compare, and what can you do to help increase your own salary?

This article originally appeared in Dental Assisting & Office Manager Digest. Subscribe to the monthly e-newsletter here.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics (bls.gov) recently released its salary findings for dental assistants. The numbers are both interesting and a bit depressing. I’ve been tracking these numbers for quite some time and looking at how trends are going in all 50 states. Sadly, one thing that has not changed is the pay for dental assistants who work in the southern United States. West Virginia is once again the lowest-paid state in the country for dental assistants, coming in at $13.42 per hour. It’s the only state where dental assistants make less than $14 per hour.

However, states in the South aren’t too far behind. After West Virginia, four of the next five states on the bottom of the dental assistant pay ladder are south of the Mason-Dixon line—Arkansas, Alabama, Louisiana, and Mississippi. Somehow, Utah is in the mix as well, earning the dubious title of the lowest-paying state for dental assistants west of the Mississippi River.

Sadly, the South has always had issues when it comes to paying assistants. It’s not a new trend. These are also regions where it’s statistically harder to improve a patient’s oral health and have a patient return for a checkup or cleaning.

This year, there is a new number one when it comes to the state with the highest dental assistant pay. In previous years, Alaska and New Hampshire have held the title. In 2016, the honor goes to Minnesota, while New Hampshire falls to second and Alaska slips to third.

Where does your state rank on the list? Take a look…

Hourly mean wage

West Virginia $13.42
Louisiana $14.44
Utah $14.63
Arkansas $15.52
Alabama $15.59
Mississippi $15.74
New Mexico $16.27
Oklahoma $16.54
Kentucky $16.61
Montana $16.64
Wyoming $16.67
Idaho $16.75
Kansas $16.86
South Dakota $16.89
Nebraska $16.93
Tennessee $17.03
Pennsylvania $17.14
Missouri $17.15
Michigan $17.20
Texas $17.20
Hawaii $17.44
Nevada $17.48
New York $17.55
Georgia $17.73
Delaware $17.82
Florida $17.99
Arizona $18.00
South Carolina $18.05
Wisconsin $18.08
Illinois $18.20
Ohio $18.37
Colorado $18.55
Indiana $18.57
California $18.82
Maine $19.23
Iowa $19.27
Maryland $19.44
Rhode Island $19.48
Washington $19.49
North Carolina $19.50
Virginia $19.56
New Jersey $19.93
Oregon $20.26
Vermont $20.35
Connecticut $20.50
North Dakota $20.87
Massachusetts $21.19
District of Columbia $21.72
Alaska $21.82
New Hampshire $22.14
Minnesota $22.70

So, what can you do to bump up your pay in the state where you work? One idea is to make sure you’re doing everything you’re legally allowed to do in your state. Dental laws pertaining to the duties of a dental assistant vary from state to state. How do you know what you’re legally allowed to do or not do in your state? You can click on this link, which will take you to the Dental Assisting National Board (DANB) site. They’ve broken down every state’s laws when it comes to dental assisting duties.

Once you know what you can and can’t do in your state, talk to your dentist/boss to come up with a business plan to incorporate some new ways to work the schedule. Perhaps you can do something that the doctor has been doing for years. If you can do a portion of a procedure, it frees up the doctor to move on to another patient, which will keep productivity at a high level and have a positive impact on the bottom line.

It’s a simple equation. When the bottom line of the business flourishes, team members will flourish as well. Dental assistants, do what you can to help grow the practice, and hopefully those revenue-generating ideas will boost your bottom line as well.


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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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