Some final thoughts about the fairness of pay raises awarded to dental hygienists

June 25, 2013
This part of the RDH eVillage salary survey closes with three questions pertaining to the equitable distribution of pay increases in dental offices, and the article concludes with comments from readers who offered more than “It has been years since I’ve gotten a raise.”

Pay raises in dental offices can be a touchy subject, eh? For the most part, dentistry does not consist of large corporations where you do not even know the names of the people on the far side of the building, let alone how much income they earn.

Theoretically, only the employer should be aware of compensation packages, or at least a vested administrator who’s not supposed to gossip. But word gets around.

This part of the RDH eVillage salary survey closes with three questions pertaining to the equitable distribution of pay increases in dental offices, and the article concludes with comments from readers who offered more than “It has been years since I’ve gotten a raise.”

After all, too many dental hygienists (81%) feel like pay increases do not occur at “fair intervals.”


Consider reading these articles about the RDH eVillage survey on pay raises


Links to Other 2013 Salary Survey Articles

Dental Hygiene Salary Survey, part 1: Reduced hours? Maybe not

Regardless of generation, dental hygienists agree about job market

Hygienists strongly believe there are too many hygiene schools, too few jobs

Some final thoughts about the fairness of pay raises awarded to dental hygienists

Job benefits survey, part 4: The 'duh' factor

Pay raises in dental hygiene: A national overview

2013 Dental Hygienist Job Benefits Survey - Part 3

Job benefits for dental hygienists: Part 2

Survey: Dental hygienists scramble for health insurance

The first question asked was, if work ethic is “reasonably comparable” among staff members, are raises awarded fairly among the staff?

Forty-three percent of dental hygienists voted “no.” (26% said yes, and 32% were uncertain.)

So, if the above is the case, who’s favored in terms of getting a raise? The hygienists said (475 answered this question; 587 hygienists overall participated in the survey):

  • Front desk personnel (24%)
  • A dental assistant (23%)
  • Office manager (18%)
  • Another hygienist (12%)
  • All other staff positions (9%)

Finally, salary surveys frequently refer to other types of compensation such as bonuses, whether they are based on production or a seasonal recognition of an employee’s good work (such as during a holiday or end of year). Bonuses are always nice to receive, but dental hygienists were asked if bonus programs were an “adequate” compensation for a lack of pay increases.

  • 10% said bonuses are a welcome reward for excess in production.
  • 25% said bonuses do not allow for personal financial planning in the same way that a pay increase does.

And a drum roll, please …

  • 54% said bonuses “typically do not exceed the amount of a fair pay raise.”

Here are some examples of interesting comments made in the survey:

  • I feel when a job is well done it should be recognized. When there are more and more tasks getting placed on your daily job, it should be compensated.
  • As a hygienist for over 20 years, I feel my experience outweighs the new hygienists just graduating. However, dentists are wiling to pay the same salary, and the senior hygienist maxes out after a while.
  • Dentists already think they are overpaying their hygienists; so therefore, we hardly ever receive raises. I also do not receive the same benefits that other personnel do who work the same days and hours that I work.
  • Each office treats raises differently. I feel it would be nice to have a yearly review. It would be great to hear how we can work more effectively, and that we are being rewarded as the practice increases its income.
  • Sometimes the personnel in the office tell the doctor that hygienists make too much money and influence the decision-making.
  • The longer I am in the profession, I feel that my employer does not acknowledge the experience I've gained and offer to the practice. There is no review of goals accomplished, rather he just decides everyone gets 1% to 4% raise. The last three years I have had to negotiate my increase. I truly feel that dentists don't respect what we bring to the office.
  • We are smart enough to understand the business and the current economy and its effect on the practice. But please don't complain about our wages when your spouse is getting her pool and house improvements, private schools for the kids, and taking expensive vacations.
  • I make $3 less an hour now than I did in 2010. I had to take a pay cut just to get steady employment. I have no benefits and am consistently asked to do more and more during each appointment, but I’m not given any more time to complete these tasks ... all in the name of profit. Frustrating!
  • In my practice where I work, RDHs are told we cost the practice more money than we earn. They feel our department is always in the red. When looking at our daily income produced, this does not seem possible. We are now being told they have to shorten our prophy appointment time 10 minutes an hour to increase our production. That will mean 10 minutes less than most preventive treatment time in our local area.
  • I think that dentists will push for extended duty dental assistants to keep from having to increase pay for hygienists
  • Raises have not kept pace with the increase in the fee charged to patients for the services we perform. In our practice the fee has risen 5% a year but there has been no increase in wages for hygienists for over four years, which was on the lower end of average for our area, at the time of our last increase.
  • Wages have been flat and other employee benefits have decreased or been discontinued since the recession began in 2007. As a result, dental hygiene is becoming a "second-income" profession — a good option if you want to work part-time and do not have the need for other employee benefits, such as medical insurance, retirement, etc.
  • Dentists seem to think it is OK for them to take excessive time off and then claim that they cannot afford a pay raise for staff. Also, it is common for a new or temp hygienist to be paid more than dedicated employees who have been with the practice for many years. There is just no appreciation for loyalty.
  • The single mothers or divorced girls in my former office got more pay and extras regardless of their experience or seniority.
  • Unfortunately, my boss doesn't understand that raises are more than just money. They symbolize that your employer values your contribution to the very busy practice. Very frustrating especially when he has his new 3D TV delivered to the office or asks if we want to come out to smell the inside of his new car.
  • The profession seems to be shifting to a lower education level and lower pay scale to match. Hygiene is such a misunderstood area by dentists and the general population. We are back to being "chat and polish" people, instead of being on the cutting edge of health issues. We have dumbed down our own profession with assembly line schools and over saturation of hygienists churned out in two years only to graduate and find no jobs. Dentists have won; they have their two-days-a-week "girls" to clean teeth and skip out of paying any benefits and providing quality care for the health of their patients. Get them in and get them out. 35 years in the practice and it makes me so sad to see where it has gone...
  • Since our compensation is usually 33% of production, employers will tweak numbers to come in at less than that so as not to grant raises.
  • Two years ago, I joined a practice where most of the employees had been there over 15 years. At my one-year anniversary, I asked for a review, and the employer didn't know what to do since he never has scheduled reviews. He told me at the review when I asked for a pay raise, "I haven't given raises to anyone in six years because of the economy." Wow! I asked him if he expected me to stay at base pay since I knew other team members have gotten raises before the recession. He finally agreed to a small raise but made sure I knew it was going to be a rare occurrence. I am now at my two-year anniversary and looking for employment elsewhere where I am treated with respect and valued enough to be compensated what I deserve. I feel that far too often employers in the dental field conveniently forget about raises. So dental hygienists and other staff need to stand up and speak to their employers and ask.
  • There is a lack of performance reviews in the industry because I feel dentists do not want to have an obligation to discuss performance — good or bad — and this leads to too much time going by in between well deserved pay raises and even raises that would take into consideration cost of living expenses.