How much does a dental hygienist make an hour?

Dental hygienist is a thriving career with an estimated growth of 20 percent by 2026. The 20 percent growth will equate to about 40,000 new dental hygiene jobs becoming available. With this kind of job outlook, registered dental hygienists (RDHs) can look forward to earning a competitive salary in the coming years. But, currently, how much money do dental hygienists make in an hour.  

Registered Dental Hygienist (RDH) pay

As per the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the average annual pay for hygienists in May 2018 was $74, 820. This translates to around $36 per hour.  

However, the highest-earning 10% of hygienists are recorded to earn about $101,820, with the lowest earning 10% making closer to $51,930. That said; these salaries are dependent on various factors, such as the level of experience, location, education, type of employer, among others. 

In some states, the average annual salary for RDHs is even higher! For instance, according to the latest data from BLS’s Occupational Employment Statistics, here are the top-5 states in order of median hourly incomes for dental hygienists:

  1. Alaska – $54.96
  2. California – 48.48
  3. Washington – $43.60
  4. Arizona – $41.29
  5. New Jersey – 41.28

This data can clearly show you how much RDHs hourly pay can vary from state to state. Moving on, though, dental hygienists must understand that, despite more positions expected to open in the coming years, competition in this profession is also growing.  As a result, hygienists are encouraged to pursue more career advancement opportunities or try their luck in more rural neighborhoods (where competition is lesser). 

Advancement opportunities for RDHs vis-à-vis their pay

First, to become a registered dental hygienist, one is required to complete a certificate or associate degree in dental hygiene and get a license in the intended state of practice. Alternatively, one may also opt to undertake a bachelor’s degree in dental hygiene; and obviously, this advanced education will yield a higher hourly pay. 

Other ways dental hygienists can increase their pay is by working for more than one dental practice or by gaining more experience, which eventually may propel them to a managerial role. Usually, in most dental offices, those with less than 5 years experience don’t qualify to supervise others. This group of hygienists may be earning about $50, 000 – 60, 000 per year. 

Between 5 and 10 years of experience, RDHs salary jump to around $60, 000 to70, 000 annually. Finally, dental hygienists with more than 20 years experience usually earn $70, 000 to $100, 000 annually.  In this field, $100, 000 is normally considered the ceiling in terms of earnings.  

Learn more about the salary of a traveling RDH »

It’s good to note that, with over 20 years of experience, dental hygienists definitely possess the experience necessary to be in a managerial role. For instance, after working at a single dental office for so many years, an RDH can be asked to manage his fellow dental hygienists or dental assistants. Normally, greater responsibilities come with higher pay.


Besides the salary, benefits are among the major concerns for RDHs and their respective employers. The majority of employers view salary as a separate entity from benefits. On the other hand, for employees, benefits matter a lot in terms of job satisfaction. Prior to accepting a dental hygiene position at a facility, clinic, or practice, RDHs should bargain their benefits packages, such as 401 contributions, paid vacation leave, sick leave, maternity leave among others. 

Note: RDHs who work part-time are usually not eligible for benefits. All the same, the flexibility linked to a part-time schedule is more appealing than the proposed benefits.

Jobs related to dental hygiene and their hourly wages

Comparable professionals earned the following per hour:

Dental assistant – Average hourly pay $15.60

A dental assistant, on a daily basis, prepare patients, set up instrument trays, sterilize or disinfect instruments, schedule appointments, or help dentist during dental procedures. 

Registered nurse – Average hourly pay $15.10

This is an auxiliary profession that supports the dentist in all aspects of patient care. This includes getting the relevant instruments ready, ensuring patient comfort throughout their visit, and mixing materials for dental procedures.  Dental nurses can also help in reception work. 

Dental laboratory technician – Average hourly pay $17.40

A clinical laboratory technician collaborates and communicates with the dentist to design and create dental prostheses for individual patients.

Dentist – Average hourly pay $68.63

Dentists are experts who specialize in oral health. Their duties include: diagnosing oral infections, carrying surgical procedures on the teeth and teeth, promoting oral health and disease prevention among others. 

A cloud-based helper to boost hygienists’ earnings 

We have already mentioned that a hygienist salary is dependent on various factors. However, if you are working for a dental hygienist temp agency, you are perhaps wondering how you can boost your hourly pay. The secret is to work for yourself as opposed to an rdh temp agency.

Nowadays, as long as you are a licensed oral health care professional, you can be in control of your own placements. In short, you can get rid of the caps that temp agencies place on your earnings, schedule, and flexibility via a cloud-based platform like Cloud Dentistry.

Briefly, Cloud Dentistry is an online dental staffing platform that removes the middleman, saving RDHs and dental practices both time and money.

Build your brand and dictate your hourly pay

Gain control of your dental hygienist career by creating a free profile on Cloud Dentistry. Not only can you advertise your services online and slowly build your reputation, but also set your own rate. Meaning, if you have a particular skill or specialty which makes you more saleable, you can take advantage of that and ask for better pay.  Exceptional performs will also guarantee you a higher hourly rate, too, since reviews of your past work positions favorably.

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