Dental assistants believe certification issues affect salaries

Certification requirements and the specter of on-the-job training both weigh heavily on dental assistants’ minds as they grapple with being one of dentistry’s lowest paid staff members in the economically challenged year of 2013, according to the results of a Dental Assisting Digest survey.

The spectrum of dental assisting requirements, including certification and on-the-job training, both weigh heavily on dental assistants’ minds as they grapple with being one of dentistry’s lowest paid staff members in the economically challenged year of 2013, according to the results of a Dental Assisting Digest survey.

Many assistants tout earning certification from the Dental Assisting National Board, Inc. (DANB) or holding state-specific credentials. They reported that being able to perform expanded functions is the ticket to earning higher salaries.

A Louisiana assistant said,You definitely make more if you have your letters behind your name.”

Others, though, grumble that the extra training doesn’t seem to pay off in the long run.

A Kentucky assistant observed,Assistants that are well trained with certifications should definitely make more! We're not sitting there with a suction!”

Overall, though, dental assistants remain supportive of requiring DANB’s Certified Dental Assistant (CDA) certification and state-specific credentials. A Massachusetts assistant said,All dental assistants should become certified. No more of this on-the-job training, which keeps the salaries and status down.”

However, dental assistants remain very proud of their chosen profession. Across the country, 73% of dental assistants would recommend the profession as a career.

A pay raise would be nice, though. It has been longer than a year since the last raise for 56% of America’s dental assistants. Not surprisingly, 59% do not believe they receive raises from employers at “fair intervals.”

The survey had 842 participants. The information about the states with 25 or more responses are linked below. The remaining states were grouped into six regions. Comments from dental assistants in each state and region are included at the links below.

Dental Assisting Salaries from 15 states*

* Designation above is based on the number of responses from dental assistants in a state

Regional Statistics*

  • Appalachia (Kentucky, Tennessee, Virginia, West Virginia)
  • Midwest(Kansas, Iowa, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, Oklahoma, South Dakota)
  • New England(Connecticut, Maine, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, Vermont)
  • Northwest (Idaho, Oregon, Montana, Washington, Wyoming)
  • South(Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, South Carolina)
  • Southwest (Arizona, Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico, Utah)

* Five responses from Alaska, one response from Hawaii, and two responses from Delaware were excluded from the regional breakdowns above. In addition, if a state was evaluated separately above, its statistics were not included in the regional breakdowns. Only the states in the parentheses were included in the regional compilations.

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