Income power of hygienists and dental assistants in 100 U.S. cities

March 7, 2014
The income power of dental hygienists and dental assistants is graded in 100 U.S. cities.

Salary surveys indicate how much income dental assistants and dental hygienists earn, but how much clout does their income have where they live?

Click here to see ranking of 100 U.S. cities

If a dental assistant or dental hygienist covets a particular city park with perfect biking and jogging trails, they should move there. If the desired view from the patio includes a majestic mountain range or pristine beaches, there’s nothing wrong with dental staff members spending their leisure hours with that tranquil view. If a robust nightlife is favored, make a lifetime reservation at the place where everybody knows your name.

The buck goes just so far, though, on the limited income potential of dental assistants and dental hygienists. What U.S. cities stretch the value of the dollars earned by dental staff members?


Most recent salary surveys on DentistryIQ.com

For dental hygienists

For dental assistants


Salary surveys for dental hygienists point to high salaries — even approaching six figures — in western states such as California. But it can be very expensive to reside in certain areas of California. Does a hygienist living in Bismarck, N.D., have as much or more income power as a California hygienist?

The evidence would seem to indicate that, yes, North Dakota hygienists possess better clout with their incomes since Bismarck is one of the top cities in this ranking of 100 cities in the United States.

This ranking regarding the income power of dental assistants and dental hygienists does not include the beaches, the mountains, the nightclubs, the recreation systems (although quality of life is a small factor in a state-based ranking used), or even the schools. The ranking is about how far the paycheck goes toward covering living expenses (and hopefully saving a little for retirement, for example), and is based on these criteria:

• Income power — The salaries of dental hygienists and dental assistants are compared to the median household income for residents in a city. Dental professionals typically are devoted to health-care issues in their communities rather than income status. But if a dental professional earns more than other residents, he or she has more financial clout — period.

Note:Hygienists typically earn more than assistants. In fact, hygienists earn more than the median income in every city ranked with this article. The lowest percentage for hygienists over median income was 1% in Anchorage, Alaska. In contrast, dental assistants earn less than the median income in 76 of the 100 cities analyzed. So the ranking only compares dental assistants with other residents, not their colleagues in the hygiene operatory.

Buying a house — The purchase of a house or condo is generally considered one of life’s major purchases. If the dental assistant or dental hygienist dedicated their entire annual income toward purchasing a home, how many years would it take them to buy the house? The median value of housing in a city was evaluated against the salaries of dental staff members. Naturally, DentistryIQ.com is aware that dental staff members do not want to settle for the average home in their area, so the actual purchase of the dream home may take a little longer.

• Unemployment — The unemployment rate projected is for all occupations in a city, not just the health-care professions. High unemployment rates can affect pricing of many consumer goods and services.

Cost of living — The 100 cities evaluated can lead to speculation similar to the sentiment, “That’s a mountain? We call that a hill where I come from.” The intent was to select one to three cities in geographically diverse areas within a state’s borders. Admittedly, the population of some of the cities is rather small. Cost-of-living expenses are often lower in the smaller “cities.” But that’s a good thing, if you’re trying to stretch a dollar between paychecks.

The power of the state, chapter 1 —Forbes magazine recently evaluated all 50 states on how they foster a positive economic climate for businesses. The boss of a dental practice needs for business growth to be bullish, since it’s good for his business too. Some of the feel-good optimism about the state’s economic outlook can be tangible, trickling to staff members. The aforementioned quality of life factors were a part of Forbes’ research in its ranking, as was business costs (including labor), governmental regulations, and new and failed businesses.

The power of the state, chapter 2 — Regardless of whether a dental staff member pays taxes happily as part of civic responsibility, the overall tax burden in a state does mean that a percentage of dollars earned doesn’t belong to you; the government takes it.

Three of top four cities for income power are in the Rust Belt region. Detroit, in particular, has been singled out in the national media for its economic woes. But if they are employed in the Rust Belt, dental staff members may be faring quite well in comparison to other residents.

Five of the bottom six cities in this ranking remain quite popular as career destinations, if not vacations — Boston, Honolulu, Los Angeles, New York City, and San Francisco. Portsmouth, N.H., also received an “F” as all of these cities strain living expenses for dental hygienists and dental assistants. But as stated at the top of this article, if these cities are part of your dream, live your dream. The dental staff member’s income may not go as far, though.

For an alphabetical ranking of all 100 cities evaluated, click here.

Sources: In addition to the Forbes ranking, statistics were used from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Advameg’s City-Data.com, Location Inc.’s neighborhoodscout.com, and the Tax Foundation.