Do Dental Hygienist’s Earn a Good Starting Salary?

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), dental hygienists have one of the highest paying salaries of healthcare professionals across the United States.

The annual mean salary is $71,970, however, like any occupation, they will earn less when they begin their career. The starting salary of dental hygienists ranges from $31,083 to $50,094 per year.

Influencing Factors

Location – The state in which dental hygienists work plays a large role in their salary, and some choose to relocate to take advantage of the higher wages. The states that pay the highest starting salaries for this occupation are New York ($38,000) and California ($35,976). Typically, a starting salary in most states for those in the first or second year of their career ranges between $33,859 and $38,000.


The industry also plays a part in one’s salary. According to the BLS, the highest starting salaries are earned by hygienists who work in private dental offices followed by outpatient care centers and employment services. The minimum and maximum starting salaries for these three industries are $31,083 and $50,094 annually.


A well-trained hygienist is often in higher demand and their knowledge can earn them better wages. The minimum degree requirement is a certificate or an associate degree, but those who obtain a bachelor’s degree have the potential to receive a starting salary of $50,000, while those who take their education one step further to earn a master’s degree may earn a starting salary of $62,000.


The need for dental services tends to increase a hygienist’s salary because dental practices usually pay more when business is thriving.


As beginning hygienists gain experience, they can eventually move into a higher position such as a dental hygiene manager which will raise their salary.


Many employers offer benefits such as health insurance, life insurance, disability insurance, paid vacation time, and a retirement plan on top of a hygienist’s salary.

Job Duties

Sometimes the number of job duties also factors into a hygienist’s salary. They include:

  • Removing hard and soft deposits such as tartar and plaque from patients’ teeth
  • Examining a patient’s gums for any abnormalities
  • Preparing and administering diagnostic tests such as an oral cancer screening
  • Taking and processing x-rays
  • Administering anesthetics to patients
  • Preparing fillings
  • Applying cavity-prevention treatments

What is the Work Environment?

A dental hygienist usually works part-time hours in a clean, well-lit environment where they will spend a lot of time standing. In order to minimize the spread of germs, they wear surgical masks, safety glasses, and gloves.


All dental hygienists must become licensed before practicing. Usually, states have a few licensing requirements and most hygienists have to take the National Board Dental Hygiene Examination as one of them. This comprehensive computerized exam has 350 multiple-choice questions that involve general questions and case studies. Most programs help students prepare for the test, however it’s best to also study on your own.

Job Outlook

The job outlook is excellent according to the BLS. This is because employment of hygienists is expected to rise thirty-three percent between 2012 and 2022.  Ongoing research has proven that good oral health leads to good general health, and more people are choosing to receive preventive dental services. To keep up with the demand, dental practices will often hire hygienists to provide this type of care.

Hygienists report a high degree of job satisfaction, and according to the U.S. News & World Report, it’s one of the best overall jobs in healthcare. To work in this field, you’ll need to first complete a dental hygienist program to obtain at least a certificate or associate degree as mentioned earlier. If you would like to learn about the various schools, please contact us.