Cleaning Teeth and Making Money: How Much Do Dental Assistants Make?

Written by
Rebecca Smith

Mar 12, 2020

Mar 12, 2020 • by Rebecca Smith

Are you thinking of becoming a dental assistant?

You’re just about to make a smart career decision. Dental assistants are in demand. In the United States, their employment is forecast to grow 11 percent through the next decade. This growth rate is faster than the average for all occupations in the country.

But then, occupational demand isn’t the only thing to consider when you want to become a dental assistant. Your salary prospects also matter.

So, how much do dental assistants make?

In this article, we’re fleshing out everything you need to know about the compensation of these professionals.

The Mean Annual Wage

When evaluating the salary of any profession, the first thing you should look at is the mean annual wage. This is the average pay for all professionals in that field.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the mean annual wage for dental assistants is $39,770. This works out to $19 per hour, on average.

This, though, isn’t to say you will get hired and start making this amount right away. The BLS reports that the lowest-earning dental assistants take home $26,940 year (or about $12 per hour) while the highest earners get $54,800 (or about $26 per hour).

As an entry-level professional, you will earn around $26K. As you gain more experience, you’ll rise through the salary scale and move closer to $54,000 per year.

Factors That Will Influence Your Salary

While these figures give you a ballpark view of a dental assistant’s earnings, they aren’t cast in stone. It’s not uncommon to find professionals who are earning below or above these figures. This is because there are factors that can affect a dental assistant’s salary.

They include:


The cost of education and living varies from location to location. Employers typically factor in these costs when setting salaries for dental assistants.

This is why dental assistant in, for instance, California, earn much more than assistants in Idaho ($41,000 and $34,000, respectively). The cost of living in California is way higher than in Idaho.

In general, salaries will be higher in the big cities compared to inner cities or semi-urban and rural towns.

Concentration of Jobs

Areas with a high concentration of jobs for dental assistants will typically have higher salaries, especially if there aren’t enough assistants to fill the jobs. Most employers will offer higher salaries in a bid to attract the best candidates.

On the other hand, areas with a low concentration of jobs will record lower salaries.

Level of Education

Some states require aspiring dental assistants to pursue a professional course in order to get hired. Others don’t have any formal training requirements. It’s for this reason your level of education will influence how much you earn.

A dental assistant with an associate degree in dental assisting commands a higher salary than one entering the professional without any professional training.

How Much Do Dental Assistants Make? Answered!

If you were asking, “how much do dental assistants make?” you’ve got a detailed answer. From the mean annual wage to the factors that will influence your salary, there’s no doubt you have the information you needed.

Keep tabs on our career blog for more tips and insights.