How Much Does a Dental Hygienist Make?

Dental hygienists work to provide patient treatment in a variety of dental settings.

Job Responsibilities

They have many daily job responsibilities such as:

  • Preparing patients for treatment by seating and draping them
  • Applying fluorides and other cavity-preventing agents to patients’ teeth
  • Educating patients by giving them oral hygiene instructions
  • Documenting all services patients receive in their chart
  • Maintaining and ordering inventory
  • Maintaining dental equipment on a regular basis so it runs properly
  • Protecting patients and employers from disease by following infection control policies
  • Attending educational workshops
  • Helping the dentist if a patient has a medical emergency during treatment

How Much Does a Dental Hygienist Make?

Over half of dental hygienists work less than thirty-five hours per week. According to the U.S. News & World Report, hygienists make a comfortable living as the median salary in 2013 was $71,110. The highest paid earned approximately $96,690, while the bottom ten percent earned nearly $48,000.

Hygienist Pay Vs Other Healthcare Jobs

How does a hygienist’s salary compare to some other healthcare professions? In 2013, dental assistants earned an average yearly salary of $35,60, occupational therapists took home approximately $77,890, registered nurses made an average of $68,910, medical assistants averaged nearly $30,000 and dentists earned $164,570.

What are the Best Paying Cities for Dental Hygienists?

The U.S. News & World Report states that the highest paying cities are all in California: San Francisco ($112,970), Santa Cruz ($102,050), Santa Rosa ($102,200), Vallejo ($104,130).

Industries that Have the Highest Concentration of Employment for this Profession

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the top employers of dental hygienists are: private dental practices ($72,300), outpatient care centers ($67,440), offices of other healthcare practitioners ($64,560), and employment services ($69,360).

Which States Have the Highest Employment Levels for this Profession?

The median annual salary for the states that employ the most dental hygienists are California ($94,370), Texas ($71,980), Florida ($63,400), New York ($69,120), Michigan ($59,520).

Which States Have the Highest Concentration of Jobs?

  • Connecticut ($80,170)
  • Oregon ($76,920)
  • Michigan ($59,520)
  • Rhode Island ($70,590)
  • Washington ($91,370)

Metropolitan Areas that Have the Highest Concentration of Jobs for Dental Hygienists

The following cities may be great places to quickly find a job:

  • St. George, Utah ($65,380)
  • Medford, Oregon ($77,130)
  • Flint, Michigan ($60,350)
  • Danbury, Connecticut ($73,890)
  • Gadsden, Alabama ($36,000)
  • Santa Cruz – Watsonville, California ($97,310)
  • Mount Vernon – Anacortes, Washington ($98,510)
  • Yakima, Washington ($83,800)
  • Wausau, Wisconsin ($57,340)
  • Idaho Falls, Idaho ($71,360)

The Highest Paying Nonmetropolitan Areas

Dental Hygienists who work in these nonmetropolitan areas are well compensated:

  • Western Central Nevada ($100,290)
  • Northwestern Washington ($98,620)
  • Southwestern Washington ($95,260)
  • North and West Central New Mexico ($92,920)


Before you can earn the salary of a dental hygienist, you need to attend a program that’s earned accreditation by the Commission on Dental Accreditation. If you already have an associate degree in any major, you can earn a certificate. If not, you’ll need to earn an Associate of Applied Science Degree in Dental Hygiene (the most popular option) or a Bachelor Degree in Dental Hygiene. Certificate programs only focus on dental hygiene courses while those that offer associate or bachelor degrees require perquisite courses before moving on to the dental hygiene curriculum. Classes offered may include:

  • Anatomy of the Head and Neck
  • Communications
  • Anesthesia
  • Chemistry
  • Dental Hygiene Practicum
  • Clinical Periodontics
  • Dental Hygiene Theory and Practice
  • Medical Terminology
  • Psychology
  • Histology
  • Oral Pathology
  • Oral Microbiology
  • Public Health Dentistry
  • Dental Pharmacology
  • English
  • Preclinical Dental Hygiene


You’ll also need a license before you can begin your career. States have different requirements but one of them usually involves passing the National Board Dental Hygiene Exam. It has 350 multiple-choice questions that you must answer within a set amount of time. A passing score is 75, and if you don’t pass, you can retake the exam. It’s best to study hard in the days leading up to the exam so you can obtain your license on the first try.

If you would like more information about a dental hygienist’s salary or the career in general, contact us today.