RDH eVillage salary survey 5

Nov. 5, 2009
During the recent RDH eVillage salary survey, many readers provided their comments on the dental hygiene job market.

The RDH eVillage salary survey generated statistics based on a variety of demographic criteria, but nothing measures the employment status of a community like comments do. The last question of the August RDH eVillage questionnaire was, “Would you like to make any comments on trends regarding salaries, employment issues, etc., in your area?” Of the 1,511 respondents, 417 dental hygienists had a thing or two to say.

The fifth part of this series shares those readers’ comments with you. The other parts of the series address:

A state-by-state breakdown of the editors’ choice of comments starts below. Many the comments were made out of frustration. We invite readers who have a different perspective about the dental hygiene job market to use the comment field below.Alabama
  • Salary rates will always be lowest in Alabama due to preceptorship. These girls work for $12 an hour. Of course, the dentists continue to charge to same fees as the rest of the country, but pay their RDHs much less.
  • I'm in a small town about 45 minutes from a major city. Hygienists that are employed here (in good offices) do not leave their positions. There are more positions available with higher pay and benefits for those willing to do the commute. When I worked full-time in Anchorage, I made close to $100,000 annually.
  • RDH schools are producing too many hygienists each year. There are too many new hygienists entering the workforce each year, and it does not match the attrition rate of the older hygienists.
  • Many offices have been forced to close in many areas due to the overwhelming number of dentists in each city and the effect of the economy. Business has been considerably slow, with hours being cut, but there are minimal if any job opportunities at the moment.
  • There are too many hygiene schools and not enough jobs for new grads. The economy is tough now.
  • I chose this job so that I could go part-time after 30-plus years of practicing dental hygiene, so I am satisfied. But I also gave up benefits of medical coverage (only had this for six years in 33-plus years of working), vacation pay, and only had a retirement plan in one office for six years, and that was many years ago. There have been too many dental hygiene schools started in Phoenix since I moved here in 1997, and now it seems there is an abundance of hygienists.
  • The county community school system in my area has continuously opened more dental hygiene programs. This is severely affecting employment and salaries with saturation of the field, and is taking away from the prestige and notoriety of the profession.
  • My hours have steadily gone down over the past year. Now I’m at 50% or less of what I used to make and am having a very difficult time finding even one or two days, despite my 23 years of experience. I also have found out that new grads are willing to take a big pay cut just to get the job. Where does that leave us? We know who the doctorswill hire. The government job in my area offers $17 to $25 an hour for a hygienist. I know they are historically less, but our area supports (normally) $40-plus an hour. I've been at $38 an hour with benefits for five years. So where does one put a "negotiable" wage range? I figure if I have to go that low per hour to do this I would just as soon go back into the corporate world and not have to have the physical discomfort or legal responsibilities. Just trying to hang until the end of the year to see what happens, but getting mighty "hungry" at half of my annual salary, and I am the primary income!
  • I moved to Phoenix in 2006 when the demand was high; now, just three years later, there are too many hygienists here.
  • Sometimes I feel like one of the doctors I work for resents having to pay me "so much." But I have pretty much gotten this attitude from every office I have ever worked at; they always make comments about hygienists being overpaid. But I also have one doctor in the office (the one that came up with the commission system I work under) that feels like if the hygienists in our office (there are two of us) are doing well, then the whole office is doing well (this is also the younger doctor).
  • Too many schools in our area; 450 registered dental hygienists in the Monterey Bay area. My sub business has dramatically suffered. Impossible to find another job for two more days of work!
  • The Sacramento area is now saturated with RDHs due to so many schools in the state now.
  • As a team player, I am taking cuts in hours on days with cancellations, and therefore cuts in pay, just as the doctor is. In these economic times, the practice is not as busy as before, and revenues are down. However, the dental assistants and receptionist work as many hours and make the same salary as before. The "team" seems to be just the doctor and two hygienists. Interesting.
  • I work for two offices. One gives small raises every year at the same time. Although they are usually small, we don't have to ask for them and they are appreciated. The other office has never given raises in the four years I've been working there. The fees have gone up several times but the dentist sometimes thinks of the RDHs as "necessary evils" and thinks we get paid too much. He has discussed our salaries with people ranging from other staff to our supply guy and others. Classy, huh? Unfortunately, it's a very bad time to look for work, so I feel a little stuck. Fortunately, my other office truly appreciates our efforts and recognizes our value! Thank goodness!
  • Our salaries were cut by 10% and all bonuses were taken away for 2009 in anticipation of the slow economy, but our office has not shown a drop in production at all. We are actually above 2008 production so far. Unless things change in the next four months, our income was cut unfairly.
  • Many hygienists are too focused on a day or hourly wage rate, forgetting to factor things such as retirement (IRA or 401K) and profit sharing, and complimentary or reduced fee dental care for themselves and possibly members of their direct families. Often, a pay raise merely means a higher income tax payment with no realized income increase. Young graduates should be counseled to negotiate benefits as part of their compensation package and not focus directly and solely on dollar amount.
  • My compensation was changed from $400 a day (working six hours a day with no break) to 30%. Then two of the other hygienists quit and they raised me up to 40% so I could continue to work with the office. My schedule is full (we do a lot of quadrant scaling). But the dentists are not as busy due to less treatment acceptance. The hygienists' jobs [have led to] selling bigger treatment plans after the dentist has diagnosed the patient. Sometimes I feel like a car salesman because the dentists are really stressing that I get the patients to accept the treatment immediately so they can fill their schedule and coffers.
  • I am just thankful that I have three wonderful offices that I work in. In this time and age, having a job is a benefit! I've been a hygienist 18 years, only 20 more to go!
  • The economy has affected many in our area and fewer jobs are available. Many dentists are doing hygiene to cut labor costs and fill their schedules.
  • I know that I have not received a raise due to the economy. I have had my hours cut, as have most of my fellow hygienists. There are too many dental hygiene schools opening up here, flooding the market with hygienists, and these poor girls are spending a lot of money for a “quicker” education, yet they are unable to find a job after graduating.
  • I am an independent hygienist that sub-contracts out to dentists. Most dental hygienists in my area are employed by a dentist. I believe that I am paid on the upper end of the scale for my area. The dentist is able to pay me more because he doesn't pay my taxes or benefits. There are pros and cons to getting paid this way, but it suits my needs. There used to be a high demand for hygienists in our area, but the slowing economy and an influx from other states has changed that dramatically.
  • I haven't received a raise since I started at this practice over 16 months ago, but they implemented an IRA program at the start of this year in which they match 3% of our contribution. I considered that my "raise" for this year. They are generous with taking us out for an occasional happy hour and with a large Christmas bonus.
  • My employer is using the economy as an excuse for the "potential" of decreasing income to the practice and, therefore, not giving raises even though we are doing better than we were a year ago regarding production/collection.
  • The slower rate of raises has been reflective of the current economic recession. I am confident that when things pick up again, our raises will reflect the appreciation our employer has for us.
  • I haven't had a raise in over three years and my boss makes $1.5 million a year. He complains about money all of the time, but I feel that this is like most dentists from what I hear. They raise their rates and then they don't give raises. We call our office the sweatshop!
  • The employment opportunities for hygienists in Connecticut are becoming very difficult. The market is becoming saturated.
  • With more large employers closing, I see things slowing more. We are down a hygienist, not to be replaced, and short-handed at the front desk, not to be replaced. Things will be even slower once school starts.
  • My office just hired a hygienist as an assistant and she is doing assisting and hygiene duties, but at a much reduced hourly rate than I am being paid. That is essentially putting me out of a job. I am being forced out and barely got 12 to 16 hours in the last month. There are no jobs available so people are taking anything they can get. I may have to make a career change.
  • My pay has been decreased and changed without my consent a number of times, and there are no hygiene positions in my area available. I am very frustrated and discouraged, and often second-guess my decision to practice hygiene, which is unfortunate because it is something that I truly love to do.
  • I have seen a severe shortage of jobs. One job ad receives at least 35 applicants.
  • The number of hygiene schools has really increased in the past 10 years. This is causing the market to be flooded and will result in lower salaries. Just what the dentists want.
  • My area is changing dramatically. Once affluent and growing, it is now stagnant and filled with immigrants. As the economy changes, so does this area. The dental decision makers continue to claim a shortage in hygiene and refuse to consider any expansion of scope of practice. The underserved are increasing daily in numbers and we cannot manage in public health. With no increases in public services, we cannot reach those that need our services. I actually witnessed a young dentist stand at a dental society meeting and claim there existed no need for public assistance in this county. At this meeting, we welcomed the Ronald McDonald Mobile unit into our county. Profound need must be displayed to qualify and this dentist had no idea of the need in his own county. The condition in this county is shameful. Thank you for the opportunity to vent. Now back to my nose down for a job I am thankful to have, but that makes me want to scream in frustration daily.
  • South Florida is a very difficult place to practice. There’s a lot of competition with dentists from other countries who come to Florida to work as hygienists for a lower income!
  • There’s a 14% unemployment rate in our area, patient census is down, and many offices are working fewer days.
  • What is the new trend of offering combo positions to recent hygiene graduates? You cannot be a receptionist/hygienist or an assistant/hygienist.
  • There are several dental hygiene schools in our metropolitan area that graduate approximately 79 hygiene students every year, which unfortunately contributes to the hygiene job shortage.
  • There are too many dental hygiene schools, too many graduates, and not enough demand. We need to stop flooding the market and expand our profession to "autonomy" to make our services more available to the public.
  • In Miami, employers do not pay as well as in Ft. Lauderdale, Boca Raton, Palm Beach and Naples. There are very few opportunities in Miami for jobs, let alone great jobs. Hygienists are holding on to their jobs regardless of work environment or compensation.
  • It is hard to find a job in Florida. I think my dentist employer realizes that jobs are hard to come by in the area. I think he feels that the employees are not going to leave if he does not compensate them because there is nowhere to go. He seems to be all about production, and there are three hygienists in our office. We are producing about $150 an hour. He told us that if we produced $125 an hour we would get a raise, but that never happened.
  • The profession of dental hygiene in the state of Florida is in serious trouble. Too many schools (17, I believe) are pumping out hygienists and there are no jobs to accommodate them.
  • Dental hygienists can easily be paid their worth. If we are a profitable entity to our practices, we can be paid appropriately. If we run prophy mills, our salaries will reflect the same.
  • I'm lucky to have a job. I graduated in 2007. Most of the students from the class of 2008 and 2009 are unable to find jobs, and the ones who did find a job are having to accept pay below the typical hygiene rate, which affects everyone. I live in Georgia and we have 15 hygiene schools (with the plan to open up one or two more) and only one dental school.
  • It seems the economy has sent many hygienists back into the job market in our area, flooding the market. There are those of us being let go because business is dropping off so much. I talked with one hygienist who had been employed 18 years, and while not losing her job, she is losing benefits and most of her hours in the office as business slows down. People are losing jobs and benefits, and they are not coming to dentists for preventive care, but primarily for pain and problems.
  • The corporation that I work for makes lots of money but does not want to pay their hygienists an amount that is equal to other hygienists practicing in the area. We have well below the average salary for our area in Georgia. But there are too many hygienists in our area, and at least 30-plus graduates are graduating every year in this area, making it very difficult to find jobs. The place where I work sees, on average, 45 to 80 patients a day in hygiene alone; there are six hygienists.
  • 30% of dentists in Honolulu work without a hygienist, and there is only one school in all of Hawaii for dental hygiene.
  • Since Apollo College came to the Boise area, too many RDHs have flooded the area.
  • I usually get an annual raise but I didn't this year because of the economy. The unemployment rate is pretty high here, but our practice is established and we’re holding our own.
  • There are not many job openings and not many hygienists. Dentists import them in sometimes. We are close to Washington State, so better pay there keeps new hygienists from coming here, although some new graduates are looking for work or are available for substituting here.
  • Dental hygienists in the past have shot those of us who need to work full-time in the foot. Because of RDHs going into practices stating that they do not need full-time or benefits, the trend is for doctors to hire numerous part-time hygienists instead of full-time so they don’t have to offer benefits. When are RDHs going to get smart and think like progressive women?
  • Highly educated hygienists with great attitudes will do well in any economy. Those with the most difficulty getting and keeping jobs in this economy are those with the "prima donna" syndrome. We as professionals need to realize our role in what we can do for a practice. We can be highly productive in offices to make ourselves irreplaceable, and we can bring such a high level of expertise to the practice and such a great team attitude that no doctor would let us find another employment opportunity. It is solely up to hygienists what their future of success may be. "Work for what you want to be paid, and it will be your future to great success.”
  • I am located in a city with a hygiene school — lots of unemployed or underemployed hygienists. Wages are lower here due to the glut of employees who are willing to work for less. I work for two good dentists who value loyalty and dependability.
  • I'm considering going into nursing because there are no jobs for dental hygienists in the Rockford area. Very regretful, I went into dental hygiene 16 years ago.
  • I doubt that I will receive a raise this coming year. Our patient flow has been pretty steady, but that could change in a heartbeat. I am fortunate to practice in a town that has a state university. I feel an educational-based local economy is more stable than an industrial-based local economy during a recession. Unfortunately, the state is taking four to five months to reimburse dental offices, creating a cash flow problem for many.
  • I live in an area where hygienists are undervalued and underpaid. I haven't had a raise in four years. I am good at what I do and have a loyal patient following. We have a busy practice and work very hard. I am neat, clean, and pleasant. I have kept my appearance up, but I am now in my 50s. I recently returned to school and obtained a bachelor's degree. I work with four other hygienists and only one has had a raise in the last several years. Jobs are so scarce for hygienists in our area that we recently had four hygienists apply for an assisting job that became available in our office. I am extremely discouraged, and would never recommend this profession to a loved one.
  • I know there is no shortage as there are two hygiene schools within 30 miles. I have heard through sales reps coming to the office that hygienists are being laid off in the metropolitan St. Louis area. Not sure if they have found jobs.
  • Several dental hygiene programs have opened up in our state in the past several years, which means that there are plenty of new grads willing to work for much less.
  • We have a real surplus of RDHs in our area. With the downturn in the economy, it has made the practice of dentistry very difficult. Our office closed one day every week last year because of the lack of patients. We are a PPO practice, so when the jobs go, so do the benefits, including dental insurance. Our practice is in a severely economically depressed area, but our patients need care too. I love where I work, and whom I serve. I worry about those faces and mouths that I haven’t seen recently. How are they doing?
  • I live in northern Indiana. We have been hit hard by unemployment due to the RV industry. I also work part-time as an instructor in the dental hygiene clinic at the university. The clinic is very busy with patients who have lost their jobs or insurance. What a great resource of continuing oral health care in our community.
  • Due to neither of my offices offering any benefits, I had to abandon the majority of my dental hygiene hours and get into a different career so I could get medical insurance coverage. No dentists where I practice offer medical coverage to their employees. I couldn't afford to pay it any longer so I changed careers and now work two days a week at the local hospital, where I get excellent health, dental, and vision insurance plus paid time off, as well as participating in a 403-B. If the benefits are considered in an hourly wage, I make considerably more in the one year I've been at the hospital than in the 36 years I practiced hygiene. I never had any paid time off or any other perks. Benefits are every bit as important as how much one makes per hour. Our area is saturated with dental hygienists, and if I quit, there would be no problem finding a replacement for me. I try to discourage anyone from going into this profession. Nursing is a much better option. I have always loved practicing dental hygiene, and I still do, but it is a profession with which I've become very discouraged.
  • We are not receiving raises due to a decrease in revenue and have begun to cut hours by taking longer lunches and going in later and leaving earlier.
  • In the last year, I have taken a cut in hours, four per week, and I receive no pay over eight hours (I typically work 8.5 to 9 hour days). I was also asked to take a $5 an hour cut. It was either that or see a hygiene position get cut. We have two hygienists in the office, so we both compromised. It is frustrating, because I'm making basically what I did 10 years ago! Yet I’m more knowledgeable and working harder.
  • Elkhart County is home to one of the highest drops in employment in the country. I am happy to be able to work at all!
  • Government estimates about the future of dental hygiene seem so "pie in the sky" now that I'm actually looking for a job with more than eight hours a week.
Two comments came from Iowa. One provided too many details that would have easily identified the hygienist. The other one simply said it was “like pulling teeth” to get an annual review.Kansas
  • * I feel blessed to have a job in a great office. I could make more and be in an office that is all money-driven, but I’m happy treating my patients and not being pressured to sell. Everyone has their own comfort level.
  • * Too many dental assistants are doing hygiene!
KentuckyThree comments came from Kentucky. One revealed the last time a raise was given. One gave specific details about production requirements, and the last one advocated health-care coverage for dental team members.LouisianaOne comment came from Louisiana. The reader comments on bonuses serving as raises.Maine
No comments originated from Maine.Maryland
  • I graduated in May 2009, and it took me four months to find a job. I want a full-time position but had to settle for part-time since it was the only job out there. Many of my fellow graduates currently cannot find work either. Right now I’m working part-time and temping while looking for another job to make my hours full-time.
  • I have heard that a lot of offices are no longer giving raises, and they use the economy as an excuse. We have had full schedules. I nearly always reach my production goal, or at least come close to it. I just think a lot of hygienists around my area are being taken advantage of in that respect.
  • I believe that I am well compensated for my area. I am paid for my ADHA membership and CE courses up to $1,000 per year. I also receive paid time off to attend workshops or CE. I don't work evenings or weekends. I receive four weeks vacation, three personal leave days, and sick leave. I have very good health insurance, pharmacy benefits, and disability insurance. I love my job!
  • Dentists are not willing to compensate experienced hygienists at an increased rate over those who are just graduating. Also, no one is interested in what type of degree you have (AA, BS, master’s). Compensation is equal across the board. Therefore, why be motivated to better yourself if the compensation is equal from beginning to the end of your career?
  • If I want a raise, I have to call a meeting with my employer; there are no intervals for review. Having said that, he has said that he wants me to be happy and I feel he pays the "going rate" for hygienists in my area.
  • I get no health insurance, no sick time, and no vacation. I think most dentists have a great deal of money but would rather keep it because they can replace us in no time with this economy. I work very hard for this doctor and get no respect. I do things to try to make myself hard to replace. I bring a great deal of patients to the practice from referrals of current patients. I made my own business cards and give them to my patients and ask them to give them to friends and ask for me when they call. It’s working great, but still I get no respect from the owner.
  • I am a brand new hygienist right out of school and I found it difficult to find a job. I work four days a week in three different practices. There are not a lot of opportunities in my area.
  • The job market is very tight in our area and jobs are nonexistent in some areas. Salaries are coming down and days worked are being cut.
  • I have an hour commute to work. Jobs in my area are rarely available and the salary cut would be significant.

  • Jobs are very scarce in my area. There are two dental hygiene programs within 25 miles of where I live.
  • I live in Michigan. Fortunately, our practice is in a rural area, and is the location of the county seat. We have a diversity of employers in the area that offer dental insurance, which means we are busy. However, there is a surplus of hygienists and we receive many resumes. I am 56-years-old and plan on retiring in four years, so I will be happy to give my job to a younger hygienist — I just hope they can hang in there.
  • I am working for a dental temp agency. Due to having two dental hygiene colleges within a 30-mile radius of my home, I have not been able to find a permanent hygiene position. In the 34 years since I obtained my license, there have probably been close to 800 hygiene graduates, so this area is saturated. It's a shame, because I still love hygiene and have never had any regrets about choosing this career.
  • With 13 schools of hygiene, a decreasing population in this state, and many people losing dental benefits through retirement or job loss, this state faces particular challenges when it comes to positions for dental hygienists. I feel so sorry for new grads of the last four years. It has been very challenging, especially for them.
  • Because of the economy, it seems that dentists are trying to take advantage of the numerous applicants they get for a position and offer the least amount of pay for the position they are trying to fill.
  • The downturn of the economy has definitely affected the practice I work in. Most offices in our area are feeling the effects with more open appointment times and people less willing to commit to treatment.
  • Jobs are very few and far between in Michigan. Dentists take advantage of this. No one in my office has had a raise in more than five years. What is expected of us, however, has significantly increased. If we are unhappy, we can quit, and the doctor won't care because he knows there are about 20 hygienists who need a job for that one position. They will work in a less than ideal office; they just want a job. This is very unfortunate. I would not recommend hygiene as a career, only as a hobby. Too bad, I love the work. But I do look back and wish I had picked a profession with advancement and a potential for increasing income.
  • Unfortunately in Michigan, there are so many dental hygiene programs that they are flooding the market with hygienists and it's very difficult to find a job.
  • I am convinced that there is a ridiculous surplus of dental hygiene programs in this state, and the way they are spitting out new grads leaves the workplace saturated and many jobless. High school counselors are encouraging their graduates to enter the field when the opportunity for jobs is scarce.
  • In January 2009, my boss told the three hygienists that we were the most overpaid, under-producing hygienists that had ever worked for him. He changed our pay to commission only. Our schedule is almost always full for six months out. This attitude has changed the way the office functions. I live in suburban Detroit. Needless to say, finding another job has been impossible. If I had known many years ago how my profession would change, I would never have become a dental hygienist. There are many community college programs in my area and it has become flooded with new graduates who will work for next to nothing. I have a bachelor’s degree from a university with a dental school. This means nothing to local dentists.
  • I work in the southeastern portion of Michigan. Many doctors have gone bankrupt and my doctor is filing for bankruptcy before the end of the year. The economy is very poor and jobs of all kinds are in short supply. I love dentistry and am thinking of getting my master’s to become a teacher in hygiene, but those positions are in short supply as well.
  • I work for a stock-held company that recently took the hygiene group to a production-based pay of $27% of gross. In October, the company will take the hygiene group to a rate of 33% of adjusted gross revenue that tends to run about 77% of gross revenues, and cut incomes approximately 11% across the board. The company found that the hygiene group was so successful in generating an increase in salary that they needed to slash the income to 75% of the incoming new graduates’ rate of pay per hour. I am devastated for my profession in the Minneapolis and St. Paul area and am saddened that I now work for a company that has disseminated the profession, disregarded the seasoned RDH, and will ultimately challenge the dental hygiene employees to be ethical in the periodontal care they provide. The company does have a wonderfully laid out preventive and periodontal program, but to work within the confines of a program where I have moved my patient base to a level of health that can be maintained I will not only not have had a raise for the last two years, but will be making less than I made for the company eight years ago. Now I am doing a higher quality of care and generating much more revenue than I ever have.
  • In Minnesota, hygienists in public health community clinics (that largely see Medicaid/low-income patients) are being laid off because the reimbursements from the state will not cover hygiene services at FQHC community clinics. Dental hygienists are not considered medical assistant providers in Minnesota. Also, it will get worse in 2010 due to the cuts in dental benefits for patients on medical assistance. Despite efforts in recent years to increase dental services to the uninsured and underserved, this new legislation opposes those efforts and may result in no care or sub-standard care for those that most need it.
  • Our state has been flooded with hygiene schools in the last 10 years and has altered supply and demand, to our detriment. Many new grads are paying huge tuition at private schools, only to get out and be unemployed.
  • Hourly wages have gone down from a couple to several dollars an hour for new hires, and down more than that for new graduates.
  • We just had three assistants go back to hygiene school and I don't know what for! There are no jobs in Minnesota. The many hygiene graduates from last year are only working part-time because they can't find full-time jobs.
  • There is a conservative, paternalistic dental community here. To keep pay down, the community closely monitors hygiene pay. Most positions are part-time so that benefits do not have to be offered. Most hygienists work in multiple offices.
  • As with everywhere else during the recession, many people are looking for jobs. We get phone calls and resumes constantly (weekly). The female dentist I work for is tremendous and genuinely warm-hearted. She treats staff and patients like gold. She realizes what she has and what is due to all of us. I love my job and I thank God everyday for such a great boss.
One comment came from Mississippi, and it was from a hygienist wondering how her pay level would be affected after returning from an occupational injury.Missouri
  • I moved to Missouri; there are no RDH jobs here, and offices are cutting hours.
  • The St. Louis area is saturated with dental hygienists. I no longer recommend this career to people who ask me!
  • Job openings have slowed down dramatically in St. Louis area. Unfortunately, a new dental hygiene school has just opened up so the job scarcity will be even worse.
  • I see a continued oversupply of hygienists in our area and the possibility of my salary going down to force me out of the practice and be replaced by a hygienist who will accept a lower salary. There will probably be no negotiating for a raise when I can be quickly replaced. Find another job? Good luck.
  • We are saturated with hygienists in our area. Another dental hygiene school with questionable credentials has now opened, with possibly another opening soon! I really think that since some dentists didn't get preceptorship legalized that they are pushing to saturate the market with poorly trained hygienists, bringing salaries down and making it easier to run prophy mills, and making more money for the dentist at the expense of the citizen.
  • This area is saturated with hygienists. Patients are not accepting dental treatment due to economic distress. Thus, dentists are struggling with finances to keep their practices running smoothly.
  • In St. Louis, we have had one hygiene school for around 40 years (St. Louis Community College at Forest Park). Now Missouri College has opened another hygiene school in St. Louis, with classes starting in March 2009 and October 2009. The job market is zero in St. Louis for hygienists. Naturally, salaries in the area will also be going down.
MontanaNo comments originated from MontanaNebraska
  • My last raise was six years ago. Our fees get raised on a regular basis, but none of that goes to employees. There is a big salary difference in the metro and rural areas. Our production is held in check by the way the practice is run.
  • My boss gives a percentage income raise across the board, not according to title, experience, or productivity. It has been over seven years since we had an office meeting!
  • Way too many new grads for nearly zero jobs. The dentists in this area are trying to change DHHS rules to allow dental assistants to do much of what we do. Many doctors are employing only part-time so as not to be pressured on benefits, while they remain the "fat cats."
  • I have worked in the same practice for 35 years and rarely receive raises. My last raise was five years ago. I do the entire screening process for new patient exams for both doctors. When I went on a three-week vacation this past year, they hired a semi-retired dentist to come in to do my job, yet they place little value on my worth to the practice and the amount of production scheduled out of this portion of the practice. I think these dentists are most concerned about maintaining their own salaries and bonuses rather than staff in this economic downturn.
  • I was hired in 2000 at $280 a day. In 2001, I was making $295 a day. This year I was reduced to $280 a day. The Reno area is flooded with hygienists due to an associate’s program in the area. This also drove salaries down.
New Hampshire
  • Because of the surplus of hygienists in our area, I had to leave a practice I was with for seven years in order to increase my pay rate. I had gone three years without a raise. In this area, most doctors figure they can treat you as badly as they want because they can easily replace you!
  • Many older hygienists are finding it difficult to get even part-time positions.
  • There is an excess of dental hygienists. It’s something my employer knows, so I had to take a pay cut.
  • I am working two part-time positions (for a total of three days a week) and temping in other offices when I can. It is extremely difficult to find even four days a week here. Obviously, I have no benefits, and health insurance costs are extremely expensive for me. I love hygiene but it’s discouraging to say the least.
New Jersey
  • This year is the first time I've noticed fellow hygienists commenting about the difficulty of finding a job and also the days and hours needed. What's going on? Are there too many of us? Are there fewer dentists or fewer patients?
  • I only get a raise when the dentist raises his fees. It could be two to three years before I get another raise.
  • I have been practicing for 30 years. The RDHs that have just graduated make what I earn. I am thinking of leaving the field due to this alone. I am not paid for my 30-plus years of experience.
  • Raises have been affected by the economy this year.
  • Some of my issues are no health benefits, no vacation, and no sick days. I've been in this office for 15 years and been a hygienist for 19 years. I get the same salary as the new hygienist who has been here fewer years with less experience.
New Mexico
  • Just this week I received my first raise after 4 1/2 years with the same employer. It was substantial. I'm glad I finally got it, but it was a long time coming.
  • My job fits my needs in that I have flexibility to take off with my husband to see the grandkids. Flexibility is as important as salary, but I think I'm being taken advantage of. The cost of a prophy has gone up in our office three times since I got a raise!
  • I recently received my anesthesia license and was hoping for a raise, although I did not receive one. I plan on asking the doctor. I found out all my DH friends are making at least $42 an hour.
New York
  • I believe that salaries for dental hygienists in this area are low. I know that I am extremely underpaid, but there are few opportunities at this time. When you do your job well, it's very discouraging to know you are not earning what you deserve and there are next to no opportunities available to change the situation.
  • I am in a small practice, and the patient load has decreased due to many large employers in our area cutting back on positions or closing. I have been asked to take a pay cut to remain salaried.
  • After being a practicing male hygienist for just over six years now, I must admit that I feel like my career peaked after about three years of practicing five days a week. The schedule is not as full as it used to be, perhaps due to the recession. So I don’t feel like asking for a raise any time soon. However, I honestly do feel that I am slightly overpaid for the type of work that I do, which includes scaling and root planing. Deep inside I yearn to do more. I am thinking of going back to school to be a dentist so that I may do more things and be my own boss.
  • Although our practice is thriving my employer has cut salaries. He built a new state-of-the-art office and has over extended himself. Our schedule is full and he blames tight money on the economy. Frustrating.
  • The average metropolitan area salary is $40 an hour. I was blessed with an incredible employer and partner.
  • Having a dental school and hygiene school within 20 miles makes it very difficult to have a fair salary because the market here is flooded.
North Carolina
  • The RDH job market here is saturated due to so many grads from so many schools in the area. Five to six schools are putting out 15 to 20 new hygienists each year!
  • There are so many dental hygiene schools open and too few dentists to work for in our area. There is an equal lack of good employment opportunities for RDHs.
  • Dentists in North Carolina realize there are more hygienists than jobs, therefore they are offering less benefits and money.
  • We moved to the south a few years ago for a life change. Salaries are considerably lower, and I can't figure out why. The cost of living in my opinion is not any different than the northeast. Property tax is less, but day-to-day living is the same. So why am I taking a $20 an hour cut in pay?
  • There are too many dental hygiene programs producing too many hygienists. Twelve years ago when I started looking for a job, I could find one about anywhere. Now with the surplus of hygienists, jobs are very hard to find, even when someone has a lot of experience and loves their career!
North Dakota
No comments originated from North Dakota.Ohio
  • Ohio has 12 dental hygiene programs. Graduates are not finding full-time employment, and the economy has drastically reduced the need for part-time hygienists. Currently employed RDH salaries are not impacted, but new grads often accept lower wages in order to secure any employment as an RDH.
  • Because of the saturation of hygienists in our area, there is no real opportunity to increase pay scale. As a RDH with over 35 years experience, I make the same per hour as a new graduate. Fortunately, I also work in a fabulous practice that considers the patients’ needs before the pocketbook needs, so I can live with a lower pay scale. But I am not the sole provider in my family and would find it difficult to survive if I were.
  • Disappointing to see that often times new grads are hired on at near the same salary that it has taken me 30 years to earn; there is no recognition for education and experience by most doctors.
  • If I had the resources, I would return to school and become a physical therapist. I love taking care of patients, but I know my days are numbered, and a new graduate will get my job soon because she will ask for less money. I am 55, and I need to work. I can outwork the new grads; I know more and give more. But it is a matter of time before no doctor will employ me because of age, even though most people guess my age at 40 to 42. This is very discouraging, I have so much to give, and the benefits to any employer and all my patients are huge.
  • My doctor believes he is paying way over the pay scale for our area. I do not receive any type of retirement plan, insurance, or uniform allowance. He takes a lot of time off throughout the year, and pays us for those days off. But I believe in the long run the practice suffers due to his frequent absences.
  • In the past I have found it difficult to search for employment in the area where I live. It seems dental offices very rarely advertise that they are looking for a hygienist. My fellow hygienists and I are concerned about this. Personally, I’m very happy where I work, but things can change. Some of my hygiene friends are having a terrible time finding employment in this area. Some have considered working out of state due to this problem. I work in a rural area in northwest Oklahoma, but I have access to many small towns as well as large cities. This is not something new. When working as a dental assistant 10 years ago, I ran into the same problem.
  • Oklahoma is saturated with dental hygienists. The University of Oklahoma has added distance learning, and this is causing hygienists to go without full time positions.
  • I have the best bosses, and the greatest team of assistants and front office staff, and that is what makes my job the best I've ever had. It truly is the best office ever.
  • I’m not receiving any benefits at all. When you add the benefits other professions receive to the total income, hygiene is not a well-paid profession. Many hygienists in my area report the same situation.
  • Until this last year, I was happy with my job. Due to the economy and mismanagement of the office, my hours were reduced to part-time. I have found it difficult for a hygienist with my years of experience and my age to even get a second look. Offices would rather hire new grads.
  • There are three dental hygiene schools educating hygienists for the area, 80 hygienists per year, and there are not enough jobs for the graduates. I have had a job in my hometown area for 34 years (various practices) and am thankful I have a position. There is definitely an oversupply of hygienists at this time and in the foreseeable future.
  • I am concerned about the availability of jobs in the Portland/Salem areas. A new dental hygiene school opened this year that accepts and graduates dental hygienists every semester instead of every year. They have not graduated a class yet. The people I know that have been accepted to this college are people that were not accepted/did not qualify for other existing schools in the past. The market is already inundated with dental hygienists. Many grads from other schools this year have not yet found jobs.
  • I've noticed both dentists' schedules are lighter than normal. My schedule is mostly full at both practices where I work.
  • I have been employed with this office for eight years and have never had to negotiate for a raise! This is the only position that I have held that I can report that. I have a great benefit package as well.
  • I am very fortunate to have medical benefits provided by my doctor. It is one of the biggest reasons that I am not looking for a job. I also understand that the reason I have not received a raise is that the cost of the health benefits keep rising each year.
  • I have gotten a raise every year for the past 22 years except this year. We actually decreased our prices for the year by about $4 for an exam and prophy, and we had a salary freeze for the first time ever this past year.
  • We brought to our doctor's attention that we have very little overhead and no assistants to help us, and we asked to receive 45% of our collections. They disagreed, saying they hold more responsibility with the practice. I do not feel this is a legitimate reason for not allowing the increase. We are just as valuable to the practice as the dentists.
  • Hygienists’ salaries are low here compared to other parts of the country. I took a significant cut in pay when I moved here.
  • It is very hard to find a full-time hygiene position with benefits. Most openings, if there are any, are for part time.
  • I don't get a great hourly rate, but I do get three weeks vacation, a retirement, quarterly bonuses, Christmas bonus, and an hour for each patient. I like the people I work with and my boss is great. He also pays for all continuing education (flights, rooms, and food). Some things are worth way more than money! The job is relatively stress-free and I actually like to go to work. Oh yeah, we only work a four-day workweek but get all the benefits of a 40-hour workweek!
  • I was due for a raise when I left my last office two years ago. I agreed to start out at my current hourly rate because my new employer opened a brand new practice. My new employer doesn't believe in raises, only bonuses. We are on our fourth bonus system in two years. It was finally starting to pay out when the economy slowed down, and we haven't seen a bonus for two months. I typically make $3 to $4 an hour more if I temp outside the practice in our area.
  • For the first time in my 20 years of practice, I am finding it very difficult to find employment. I feel that because of my experience I deserve a higher salary, but I am in competition with less experienced, less costly hygienists. With the economy being what it is, I think dentists are looking for a bargain vs. quality.
  • Over the past 20 years I have seen dental hygiene go from a care and education-based profession to one that focuses on production and sales. I have received less frequent raises even though we have continually grown as a practice. The benefits to the workers at the practice have been decreased over the years while the stress level and expectations placed on them has quadrupled!
Rhode Island
Only one comment from Rhode Island, and the reader expressed dismay over higher salaries in neighboring Connecticut and Massachusetts.South Carolina
  • I had to relocate within the state in order to work. Upstate South Carolina has no dental hygiene jobs, and too many new graduates.
South Dakota
No comments originated from South Dakota.Tennessee
  • We had several temporary hygienists who had moved from another state and were having a difficult time finding permanent employment.
  • It’s difficult to find a job, but not due to a surplus of hygienists. People just don’t move around often here. The good dentists have had the same hygienists for many years. The job openings are often with the less desirable dentists.
  • The quality of dental hygienists graduating with associate degrees from the community colleges is very poor. They are also willing to work for peanuts, which continues to jeopardize our profession and all I have worked for over the past 20 years. At least these new hygienists should know we have fought and paved the way for them and they should stand beside us veterans and not undermine us.
  • It’s still good here for good hygienists. Salaries for experience, especially perio, are better than most. Being particular in your choice of jobs is still possible. But newbies haven't had the best luck. Times are getting tougher here and possibly employers are going to look for less experience to save money. We’ll see!
  • I have heard from the new graduates of 2009 that they are being paid less than we were when we graduated last year (about $4 an hour less).
  • This was the first time in 35 years of his practice that the dentist did not give a raise to any member of our staff. We’re not taking CE trips any more. We work down the road from a RDH school, so he knows he can replace any of us at any time. But he treats us well overall.
  • I feel the pressure at work to sell dentistry. Patients are postponing their dental work because of the state of the economy and other financial woes.
  • I think most hygienists are staying in practices where they are unhappy/unfulfilled instead of looking for a new position during this economic downturn. I hope the job market returns to the usual for my area, where it is normal to have at least a few jobs available.
  • This is a tough economy and business has slowed by about 10%. We could get by with fewer staff, but so far all jobs have been preserved in the practice.
  • I moved from a city of 45,000 to a major city because of my husband's job. I am working eight hours more per week, but took a $15,000 cut in salary. With more than 36 years of experience, I thought I would be able to find an office that would appreciate my knowledge and experience and reward me financially, but I was disappointed. I would like to considerg retirement, but I need an increase in my Social Security benefits and that will only come with an increase in average of salary. Bummer!
  • It is somewhat difficult for hygienists to find work in our area, but I know many dental offices that are working without dental hygienists or are having assistants do much more than they should. It is so frustrating to see that the community is not fully benefitting from the services that a dental hygienist can offer. We have a dental hygiene school in our area, and I wonder if the school should consider taking fewer students from this area so that the dental hygienist looking for work would be more successful. Our office has a very strong dental hygiene department, and I think that the economic difficulties that so many offices are experiencing have been minimal for us because of that. We are experiencing a few openings where some offices in our area are shutting their office doors for days at a time.
  • We have too many hygiene schools in this area, and it's sad since so many recent graduates can't find employment.
  • The one thing that disturbs me is that my salary is not commensurate with my experience. Having 30 years of hygiene under my belt, it hurts to see recently graduated students getting the same amount because our job is production oriented. The area where I work has a limited number of dentists and hygienists, and everyone "knows" everyone else — the good, the bad, and the ugly. I have learned to be careful not to say anything about anybody because it will come back to haunt me. But it makes switching to another office very difficult. However, I happen to work for one of the best guys in this area, and I feel very fortunate to have such a wonderful boss.
  • It is very difficult to find work! We even have an agency here in Northern Virginia that imports hygienists from another state and houses them; subsequently, they get $35 an hour from the employer, undercutting the residents here in Virginia. There are seldom any temp jobs. Why don't the schools reduce admissions? They did reduce the requirements to pass courses in order to increase revenue. Guess a bad graduate is better than having the school be in financial distress! Not. Too many dental hygienists and so many new doctors who can't fill their own schedules, so they do the hygiene appointments.
  • I know more hygienists who can't find a job than who have a job! There are also many out there who are too scared to change and are putting up with less than ideal conditions, to put it mildly.
  • The economy has decreased the overall net profits of our office by 15% from last year. Many offices in this area are down 50% according to an outside accounting source.
  • This area has become saturated with hygienists, so our hourly rates have decreased.
  • A hygiene school opened in our town a few years ago. Since then it has become more and more difficult to find employment. I believe it has also changed the base salary.
  • There may not be a large surplus, but there are very few job openings. Our doctors are concerned about the economy, so our insurance benefits were cut this year, and there is very little if any money contributed to retirement funds.
  • I find that employers are reluctant to give hygienists raises because "we make enough." Many RDHs I know that have been at the same practices for many years have salaries that are extremely out of date. It seems as though employers feel they already make enough. The hygienists who change jobs periodically seem to get a higher wage with each job change.
  • I offer no solution to salary surveys, but at the same time I don't put an excessive amount of credence into them. After more than 30 years in the profession, I have never felt underpaid or underappreciated as a team member. I believe we are compensated by what we put into our profession, which is consistent with many careers. I have not remained stagnant in my knowledge, and I keep up with new research, materials, and equipment. My employers are aware of my knowledge and feel confident in my role in their office and patient treatment.
  • The trends are the same. Graduate more hygienists to keep wages lower, and train dental assistants to do hygiene jobs so the dentist can pay them less. I am so done with the politics of dentistry. I love what I do! Perio, restorative, anesthetic, kids — it's wonderful. However, I feel so hobbled by the dentists who want to keep us under their control because if we were able to practice independently, they wouldn't make as much money. Patients would benefit and dentists wouldn't, especially those who know they give substandard care and know RDHs wouldn't refer patients to them. I am not the only one feeling this way, and I would love to stay and fight for my profession; however, the wheels of change are barely moving.
  • The market here is flooded with hygienists. If you are willing to move to the other side of the state, jobs are extremely plentiful.
West VirginiaOne comment was submitted from West Virginia; the veteran hygienist had recently discovered that a graduate earned $11 a day more.Wisconsin
  • There are too many hygienists and no jobs! I've been looking for three years, and there have been no openings. The pay scale has dropped because dentists know they can hire new graduates for less money.
  • The dentists in our state have accomplished their goal of increasing the number of dental hygienists and reducing job opportunities, especially for full-time work. There is also a trend to lower wages, offer no medical insurance, and create more part-time jobs.
  • Two of the dentists I work for primarily see T19 patients, and raises or continuing education dollars are nil. So with the reimbursement low from the state program, wages are lower.
  • It's a very difficult market for hygienists in my area. It took me 1 1/2 years to get into the government-funded clinic where I work. There are very few if any jobs available in my area or a 60-mile radius.
  • Wisconsin is graduating way too many dental hygienists every year. This market is so saturated with hygienists that dentists look at them as a dime a dozen. I know several RDHs who have lost their jobs simply because the doctor found another who will work for less. The colleges need to have fewer students graduate per year, plain and simple.
  • I had a very good job (15 years), but due to finances of the practice I was replaced by one of the inordinate number of new grads, to whom the dentist could pay a much lower wage. The dentist who executed this decision was more concerned about his production and profitable business than patient care. He continually raises his fees, but does not raise hourly salaries. He hired many part-timers to avoid paying benefits. The local dental hygiene schools continue to matriculate new classes each year. Even many of them are not able to find jobs. So I volunteer (no pay, but enormous personal reward) at the local community dental clinic, serving extremely poor children (those living at poverty level or have no insurance) who are on waiting lists to receive treatment for high caries, abscesses, etc. Most are usually in pain. I may earn less, but I sleep at night knowing I give patients the very best care that I have been trained to provide.

No comments originated from Wyoming.