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Final results of the DAD salary survey

Oct. 19, 2010
Dental Assisting Digest™ Editor Kevin Henry shares the latest results from the DAD 2010 salary survey.
By Kevin Henry
Editor, Dental Assisting Digest™
When it comes to salaries, dental assistants aren’t shy with share their numbers or opinions. For that, I thank you. This year, 729 dental assistants from around the country were willing to answer a six-question survey from Dental Assisting Digest about their salaries and profession. Here’s what we learned ...Wages
Of the 722 people who gave us their hourly rate, 433 (almost 60%) fall in the range of $14 to $20 per hour. The most popular answer this year was $18, which 100 respondents (13.9%) clicked as their wage. Last year, the majority of respondents’ salaries fell between the $15 to $20 range (52%), with $18 per hour being the most popular answer (10.4%). The good news is that dental assistants aren’t losing ground in terms of salaries. The bad news is that they’re not gaining much ground either.
Click here to see chart larger.Raises
The wages tell us the pay scale is about what it was in 2009, yet 43.8% of respondents told Dental Assisting Digest that they had received a raise within the last year. Maybe those who were severely underpaid are being bumped up into the next category?

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If you’ve done the math, you know that 56.2% of you didn’t get a raise within the last year. Is it the economy? Is that just an excuse? If you haven’t received a raise and you think it’s time to ask for one, be sure to read this great article from Linda Miles that appeared in DAD earlier this year. Not surprisingly, a lower number of raises during the last year translates into a higher number of respondents who don’t believe they receive raises at fair intervals. More than half (55.3%) said they felt this way, although I initially believed that with the economy, this number would be much higher.
Click here to see chart larger.Profession
When I go around the country and talk to dental assistants, I often hear about the low wages and need for more respect in the practice ... but I also hear how much dental assistants love what they do. This was reflected in the answers to our final question, “Would you recommend dental assisting as a profession?” An overwhelming 77.6% of you said you would, while only 8.5% said you would not. The rest (13.9%) were unsure.
Click here to see chart larger.Comments
This is always the most telling part of the salary survey. It’s a chance for dental assistants to voice their opinions, and many of you shared from the heart in this section. I appreciate that.Here are some of your comments about salaries and the dental assisting profession ...A dental assistant from Tennessee ... “I don't know how it works out for dental assistants in other states in the U.S., but here in Tennessee income for dental assistants could be a whole lot better. Most dentists here only want to start us out at $9 per hour. The poor pay, lack of medical, dental, and optical insurance — not to mention sick days, holiday pay, vacation packages, and no decent retirement plans — make dental assisting here very bleak. Dental assistants study hard for this profession. We are expected to be very knowledgeable and skilled. Dentists expect a lot from us and in a hurry. We are delivering professional health care to people. We are at risk for exposure, not only to bloodborne pathogens and diseases, but also to the day-to-day chemicals that many of us still have to use. Also, we all too often endure a lot of stress due to our work. We have no guarantees, no security, and often no respect. Many dentists are aggressive or downright insulting toward their assistants. It's demeaning. We deserve better treatment. Other employers offer a lot better for their employees and have sanctions to prevent and hold accountable improper treatment among fellow employees. Dental assistants walk lightly. If we get fired or quit, we are blackballed. Of all the girls that I graduated with, 95% have regretted choosing this field as their profession. They have quit their jobs, or are miserable because of the reasons I just mentioned. If you could reach all of them and just get them to talk, I think you would agree that it’s time for change for the better for dental assistants. We are hard-working women looking to secure our future. We want jobs that we can securely settle into and enjoy. We want to be treated with respect by our employers. I know not everyone has had a bad experience, but many have. It’s time to listen and implement change. I would not recommend this profession in that it requires a lot to achieve it, and continued time and expense to maintain it. Many of us have families to support. A lot of dentists take one little dental assistant, expect her to maintain two to three operatories, scrub room and lab with a good patient load, work her hard all day, four days a week, and don't pay her a decent wage or offer other compensations. Dental assistants are professionals too. I would like to see us treated, paid, and compensated as such. Thank you for this opportunity to speak up for our profession.”A dental assistant from Michigan ... “We all know hygienists get paid more because they work alone, but as an assistant I believe we should get paid the same if not more. We (assistants) take on a number of different job duties daily. A load of responsibility is placed in our hands and we complete the jobs successfully.”
A dental assistant from Pennsylvania ...
“I have been a dental assistant for a little over 20 years. I have waited four to five years to receive a raise. It appears that other staff members get raises more frequently, while the dental assistant bites the bullet while helping the front desk and the RDH more. I remember the gap between the administrative people and assistants wasn't that great, but the gap between the RDH and dental assistant has grown exponentially. Additionally, the hours worked never get paid, e.g., we don't get paid to clean and maintain equipment or make models during others’ lunch hour. The real hourly rate gets reduced when calculating hours worked, not hours paid.A dental assistant from Pennsylvania ... “There's a difference in being a DA, a CDA, or an EFDA, in the level of education and the work they do. There should be a difference in the salary as well. An EFDA, who is college graduate just like an RDH, is expected to be paid more than an assistant who does just chairside, because an EFDA performs some expanded duties such as restorations, sealants, and coronal polishings, to mention a few. I have been an EFDA and a CDA for six years, and I feel underpaid compared to what I contribute to the office. We should be paid at least like hygienists.”A dental assistant from Kansas ... “It seems that the economy is taking its toll as there have not been salary increases in the last two to three years. It used to be annually.”A dental assistant from Indiana ... “Even in the 21st century, income levels in dental assisting remain low. Dental assistants are valuable members of the dental team and should be compensated for their level of expertise. Dental assistants must continue their education to remain competitive in the workforce.”

A dental assistant from Minnesota ...
“I think the schools are giving students unrealistic starting salary ideas. I have been assisting for 15 years and started at $6 per hour and received my last raise in 2006 for $25 per hour. I don't expect another raise. I feel I am well compensated. I also am multifunctional since I have worked for only one doctor, and I have learned all the ins and outs of the practice and can do everything but hygiene and dentistry. Hard work and willingness to do anything possible is what will get us good pay. It should not be expected because the assisting schools say so.”A dental assistant from Maryland ... “Dental assisting has a long way to go to be qualified as a profession, and this will only happen when dental assistants are licensed with pertinent CE applied to that licensure. I am proud to be a CDA!”A dental assistant from South Carolina ... “I have been working for the same dentist for the last five years. At the present time, he has never given me a raise. My fellow employees say that they have not been given raises either for the past five years. If we ask the dentist about this, he blames it on the economy.”A dental assistant from New York ... “The duties and responsibilities of a CDA far exceed the salary. It's time assistants were given fair value and recognition for our knowledge, skill, and performance. This also needs to be a licensed profession so that we do not have to compete or feel threatened by a “will train” situation. I feel it would be a much more lucrative and inviting profession if we were respected as the professionals we are.”