2016 RDH eVillage salary survey, part 4: Millennial hygienists (vs. everyone else)

Salary survey conducted by RDH eVillage examines statistics for millennial hygienists.

Nov 8th, 2016

The main reason we talk specifically about millennial dental hygienists in the 2016 salary survey is because they faced and weathered a rather unique challenge. Many were lured into a dental hygiene career by the siren call of forecasts predicting plentiful jobs in the profession. They may have learned their skills in a new facility erected just for them, even though many veterans were alarmed by the increasing signs of an overcrowded profession. All of this occurred during the Great Recession, and a smattering of available part-time jobs didn’t increase confidence among new graduates about paying off student loans.

So our objective here is to compare the millennial dental hygienist with the rest of the dental hygiene profession. The oldest millennial, by the way, is 35 years old in 2016. So they most definitely have a significant voice in the dental hygiene profession; in fact, 26% of the 2,535 respondents to the 2016 RDH eVillage salary survey were millennials.

Here are the comparisons between millennials and the rest of the profession:

Millennials: 65% work more than 30 hours a week.
Everyone else:
49% work more than 30 hours a week.

Millennials: 59% view finding employment as a dental hygienist as being “difficult” in their area.
Everyone else:
64% view finding employment as a dental hygienist as being “difficult” in their area.

Millennials: 44% receive paid sick leave.
Everyone else:
46% receive paid sick leave.

Millennials: 46% have access to health insurance through their employer.
Everyone else:
39% have access to health insurance through their employer.

Millennials: 50% say they practice in metropolitan areas.
Everyone else:
57% practice in metropolitan areas.

Millennials: 44% anticipated earning between $41,000 and $60,000 as a dental hygienist during 2016.
Everyone else:
38% anticipated earning between $41,000 and $60,000 as a dental hygienist during 2016.
(The income range above was the most common range for dental hygienists reported in the salary survey.)

Millennials: Nationally, the most common hourly rates were $35 (11%), $40 (9%), $30 (8%), $32 (8%), and $36 (6%).
Everyone else:
Nationally, the most common hourly rates were $40 (10%), $35 (7%), $36 (7%), $30 (6%), $32 (6%), and $38 (5%).

Millennials: 38% received a pay raise within the last year.
Everyone else:
24% received a pay raise within the last year.


Read the other articles about the 2016 salary survey


Many millennials also took the opportunity to comment on the dental hygiene profession while taking the survey.

Job market

  • Too many two-year dental hygiene programs; our market is saturated.
  • Majority of the dental offices do not hire full-time RDH, thus, hygienists do not get any benefits such as paid vacations, holidays, sick days, or PTO.
  • It is somewhat easier to get a job. It used to be terrible. Also, there is more sub work available now.
  • Corporate dentistry is huge in Denver. Many jobs are available, but many are being filled by temps since the corporations offer lower pay even with benefits.
  • Impossible to find full-time work. Too many new grads coming out each year and not enough jobs for everyone. Working part time means that the owner does not need to offer benefits. Very disappointing.
  • Most openings seem to be for one or two days a week with no benefits at the same or lower pay than I currently make.
  • Raises are rare. Employment is difficult in the St. Louis area due to saturation.
  • There are multiple one- or two-day-a-week positions available in this area, but few full-time positions.
  • Very difficult to find a full-time position in this area, or even a part-time job for that matter. Some of those available positions are for offices with an unhealthy environment and are not worth even applying for. It's very sad.
  • Seems like job market in my area is stable, and it's easy to find employment or temp jobs.
  • It is very difficult to find employment in Kansas. The market is saturated with dental hygienists. Too many dental hygiene programs graduating too many students each year in comparison to the number of practicing dentists in the state. We need a centrally located DDS program and more dentists to practice in rural areas instead of only the bigger cities like Wichita and Kansas City. I worry about being able to find employment if my family were to relocate.

Working conditions

  • I know other offices in my area pay more with better benefits, but I have a great work family and I'd never leave. I've had offers from other offices in my town for $35 an hour, $3 more than I make now. Treat your staff right and they will stay even if it's for less money.
  • Our staff recently discussed the lack of raises. My boss asked us to remember that we are eligible for benefits. However, as I am two hours a week short of full time, I am ineligible for benefits. No benefits and no raise. But there are so many graduates in the area that finding a new job would be difficult. I'm stuck, thanks to the overpopulation in the profession! 15 years ago we could write our own ticket. No longer.
  • Employer recently suspended bonuses until further notice due to personal reasons and expenses.
  • There are no benefits. Many dental offices have unfair labor practices.
  • Salaries are being driven down with the flooded market. I get paid well simply because they work us like a hamster on a hamster wheel. I see 14 patients and get 30 minutes for each, including x-rays and exam. It's a sad time for hygienists and I wouldn't recommend it to anyone. Fortunately, I don't need health insurance, but it's worse for those who do.
  • While my office offers benefits, it is only for full-time employees, which I am not. I would also like to note that I work for a corporation. We are underpaid in comparison to private practices in our area. The other side of the coin is that we do get yearly raises. I would also like to state that our hours are not guaranteed, which has caused many financial hardships for myself and my fellow hygienists.


  • I moved from a large city (Atlanta) to a rural area in Florida and have taken a huge pay cut.
  • I believe older hygienists have been making about $50 per hour in my area for years. After I worked at one office for one year, I asked for a raise. I also asked for a raise after working for another office for five years. Both offices refused, saying that I get paid what the other hygienists in the area get paid. I learned that was not true after talking about salaries with other hygienists. I believe new graduates get paid less but with commission we are working harder with shorter times for patients.
  • Hourly rate is declining due to the high influx of graduates from new schools opening.
  • I do not feel the salaries in the area around Grand Junction, Colorado, reflect the cost of living. It is less expensive to live here than in Denver but not by much. The cost of living and health care continue to rise but our pay remains the same. There seems to be a sentiment among dentists that hygienists make "enough," and receiving a raise is not common. This is anecdotal though.
  • My employers seems to feel we are not ready for a raise, but our production is continually increasing. They have based this decision off of salary rates in North Carolina. It's very disappointing, especially when we are at an all-time high for production.


  • I feel the two-year programs are undermining the four-year degree I proudly earned.
  • I feel that dentists are wanting to pay less, and new hygienists are accepting less. Few hygienists get the raises that they are due. Even if it is just a 3% raise to meet the cost of living increases, we would be appreciative, but there are few dentists who think that way.
  • It seems that the potential to make a bonus is driving down the hourly wage. If the bonus were achievable, then it would make up for the low wages. Unfortunately, our bonuses are designed so they are not achievable, so I'm stuck with low pay. Kind of a bummer.
  • Sad that I live only one hour away from a city-based income. I wish it didn't matter where someone lived because the cost of living isn't that different. All offices get the same payment from insurance!
  • Job opportunities are improving in northern Minnesota; however, flexibility and willingness to adapt and seek employment are a necessity.
  • Raises have never been offered to anyone in the office, even though they are earned and the employer has no complaints about the employees. Employees have to request any raises.
  • I work for a corporate office on commission just a half day on Saturdays. I stay very busy and make good money. I would never do it full time, but it is nice because I just do hygiene and then go home. My full-time position is salary-based. I have nine weeks paid vacation. I see patients 26 hours of the 34 and do administrative tasks the other eight hours. I am part of a small team and we are all cross-trained. It requires more mental capacity, doing case presentation, collection of payment, and comprehensive new patient appointments, but I feel a great deal of satisfaction. I feel lucky in that I love my jobs, bosses, and team members. I have no complaints with my career. But I am worried about all the other things I've heard going on out there. I've been at both my jobs for five years and I don't plan on changing. Both offices have expressed that they are happy to have me and have given me raises within the last year.
  • Dental hygiene isn't what I thought it would be. I don't feel like I'm treated as a professional.
  • It is a difficult career. There are too many hygiene schools and there are no jobs! I have been in the same practice for 12 years. We have two hygienists who drive here from other cities that are both over 50 miles away, just because this is the only job they can find. We are not offered any good benefits or a 401(k). I would not recommend this career to anyone. I love dental hygiene and I take pride in what I do, but the career itself feels like a dead end. I wish I had picked something that provides more security for me and my family.
  • Our practice was recently bought by another dentist. I am offered benefits, but they are only partial benefits. For example, I am not offered a health plan but I am given a dollar amount per month toward my health plan cost. Our sick pay is a state law. I only get a few paid holidays. My week vacation is mandated to be a week when the office is closed. My CE reimbursement is covered at 50% only if it is directly applicable to my daily practice. Front desk and assisting staff is reimbursed a full 100%. I am still thankful to be working 30-plus hours per week and to have benefits, but they are all less than what our previous owners offered. I think starting a discussion about these things is important on a national level. I also think hygienists need to prepare themselves for a more corporate environment. Many general dentists are buying multiple practices now, tailoring their clientele, and bringing in specialists of their own instead of referring out.
  • In a saturated area, it seems that new hygienists are accepting lower wages to get the job. Never accept less pay than you are worth. A hygienist is extremely valuable to a dental practice!
  • Seems that with the increase of hygiene programs in the state and thus the increase in hygienists that dentists no longer value the profession. Jobs are hard to find in the area where I live. My salary has decreased by $20,000 over the past five years. I am extremely frustrated with my chosen profession.


  • Wish we could have insurance benefits and earn a commission but that is a farce in this profession. I'm blessed but it is hard to find a job here.
  • There are a lot of jobs available in the area, a good mix of part-time and full-time. Most offices with full-time job offerings are providing health/vision insurance, uniforms, ability to earn paid time off, and paid vacations. A fair number do profit sharing, bonus potential on top of hourly/salary, and free dental. I have a full-time job, usual hours are Monday through Thursday, and the temporary staffing agencies in the area are looking for more workers all the time. I pick up a few shifts with them every month, mostly Fridays and a few Saturdays here and there.
  • I just have to say that I am super lucky to have found the job I have. It is corporate but not a dental corporation. It's a medical corporation that runs medical facilities for other huge companies for their employees onsite. For this reason, I get benefits (although I do pay half of cost) and a yearly raise of up to 3%. I have not found any other job in the area with such benefits for a part-time (20 hours per week) employee. Unfortunately, the company we service is not doing well and our center may close. I'm grateful for the time here so far. It's been five years.
  • The doctor does not give sick leave as a benefit. The state of California has passed a law stating that all employers must give paid sick leave of up to 24 hours per year. But as a hygienist I am usually not offered any benefits.

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