The average dental hygienist salary is $75,500 per year or $36.30 per hour according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).
The median salary is $74,820 per year or $35.97 per hour. Compared to the median salary for all health technologists and technicians ($44,700), dental hygienists make $30,120 more per year.
If you decide to pursue a career as a dental hygienist, your earning potential depends on your experience, location, and industry.
Highest and Lowest Average Dental Hygienist Salary
The BLS reports the highest and lowest salaries for dental hygienists, which are as follows:
- The lowest 10% of dental hygienists earn less than $51,930 per year
- The top 10% of dental hygienists earn more than $101,820 per year
Average Dental Hygienist Salary by Experience Level
Dental hygienists start out making less money, but their income gradually increases with experience. Payscale* reports that dental hygienists typically make the following based on their number of years of experience:
- Less than 1 year of experience: $62,275 average annual salary or $29.94 per hour
- 1-4 years of experience: $65,873 average annual salary or $31.67 per hour
- 5-9 years of experience: $71,406 average annual salary or $34.33 per hour
- 10-19 years of experience: $73,049 average annual salary or $35.12 per hour
- 20+ years of experience: $74,880 average annual salary or $36.00 per hour
*Payscale collects data directly from employees while the BLS collects salary information from employers.
Average Dental Hygienist Salary by Industry
Your salary as a dental hygienist also partially depends on the industry you choose to work in. For reference, the average dental hygienist salary is $75,500 per year.
Average Dental Hygienist Salary in the Most Popular Industry
The Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that there are 215,150 dental hygienists working in the United States. Of those, an overwhelming majority (203,550) work in Offices of Dentists. These dental hygienists earn an annual mean wage of $75,780.
Average Dental Hygienist Salary in the Top-Paying Industries
Dental hygienists working in the following industries make the most money:
- Home Health Care Services: $89,790 average annual salary
- Offices of Dentists: $75,780 average annual salary
- Outpatient Care Centers: $75,520 average annual salary
- Offices of Other Health Practitioners: $75,400 average annual salary
- Employment Services: $73,160 average annual salary
Jobs in the Home Health Care Services industry are scarce—the BLS doesn’t have enough data to report an employment figure. However, since 94.6% of dental hygienists work in Offices of Dentists, it’s safe to say that you’ll have little troubling securing a job in one of the top-paying industries.
Average Dental hygienist Salary in the Lowest-Paying Industries
Some industries pay significantly less than others. These are some of the lowest paying industries for dental hygienists as of May 2018:
- Other Ambulatory Health Care Services: $56,210 average annual salary
- Psychiatric and Substance Abuse Hospitals: $57,370 average annual salary
- Hospitals – State Government Owned: $60,350 average annual salary
- State Government (excluding schools and hospitals): $60,420 average annual salary
- Federal Executive Branch: $61,010 average annual salary
Average Dental Hygienist Salary by State and City
Location has the biggest impact on your earning potential as a dental hygienist. For reference, the national average dentist hygienist salary is $75,500.
States with the Highest Average Dental Hygienist Salary
The BLS identifies the following as the top five states/territories that pay dental hygienists the most on average:
- Alaska: $114,320 average annual salary
- California: $100,830 average annual salary
- Washington: $90,690 average annual salary
- Arizona: $85,890 average annual salary
- New Jersey: $85,860 average annual salary
Working as a dental hygienist in Alaska and California might mean a higher salary, but you’ll need to use that extra money to afford living there. Alaska and California are the 6th and 4th most expensive states to live in according to CNBC. Keep that in mind before packing up and moving after graduation.
Cities with the Highest Average Dental Hygienist Salary
The specific city you live also affects how much you’ll earn. The BLS reports that the following metropolitan areas pay dental hygienists the most:
- Fairbanks, AK: $113,190 average annual salary
- San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara, CA: $112,210 average annual salary
- Anchorage, AK: $110,800 average annual salary
- San Francisco-Oakland-Hayward, CA: $109,750 average annual salary
- Santa Rosa, CA: $108,010 average annual salary
States with the Lowest Average Dental Hygienist Salary
Move to any of these states and expect to make much less than anywhere else in the U.S. These are the lowest-paying states for dental hygienists:
- Alabama: $46,500 average annual salary
- West Virginia: $57,740 average annual salary
- Mississippi: $57,860 average annual salary
- Louisiana: $59,810 average annual salary
- Kentucky: $59,910 average annual salary
In Alabama, your earning potential as a dental hygienist is far below the national average. The 90th percentile wage for dental hygienists is just $60,460—the lowest of all states. This means that only 10% of dental hygienists in Alabama earn more than $60,460. As a reminder, the top 10% of all dental hygienists in America earn more than $101,820. That’s a substantial $40,000+ difference.
Is Becoming a Dental Hygienist Worth It?
Dental hygienists can earn a lot of money, but is it enough to justify paying to go to school for it?
Yes, it is.
Dental hygienists only need an associate’s degree in dental hygiene from a community college, technical school, or university that’s accredited by the American Dental Association. Programs only take two to three years to complete and include a mix of coursework and hands-on experience. After graduation, dental hygienists need to become licensed in their state.
To really make this career “worth it”, it’s best to obtain your associate’s degree in dental hygiene from a public community college. Tuition at a public community college costs an average of $3,660 for the 2018-2019 school year. To compare, a private two-year college charged an average of $14,587 per year for tuition and fees in 2016-2017. Along with tuition, you’ll need to cover books and supplies, transportation, and living expenses, which vary widely based on where you’ll be living.
Even if you need to take out loans to cover your dental hygienist degree, you may be eligible to have them forgiven. Dental hygienists that meet certain criteria may be eligible for State Loan Repayment Assistance Programs or Health Service Corps. For example, in Colorado, registered dental hygienists can apply for the Colorado Health Service Corps. Dental hygienists can have up to $20,000 in student loans forgiven in exchange for working in an approved Health Professional Shortage Area for three years. That could very easily cover all your college expenses.
Along with lower college costs and high earnings, dental hygienists also enjoy great job stability and flexibility. The BLS projects a 20% change in employment for dental hygienists from 2016 to 2026. That’s approximately 40,900 more jobs. Plus, this career typically comes with a lot of flexibility. There are weeknight and weekend hours at many practices as well as the opportunity to work part-time. Flexibility is a great quality in a profession, especially if you’re dealing with a chronic medical condition, caring for an aging parent, or planning to start a family.
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College Ave: College Ave Student Loans products are made available through either Firstrust Bank, member FDIC or M.Y. Safra Bank, FSB, member FDIC. All loans are subject to individual approval and adherence to underwriting guidelines. Program restrictions, other terms, and conditions apply. (1)The 0.25% auto-pay interest rate reduction applies as long as the borrower or cosigner, if applicable, enrolls in auto-pay and authorizes our loan servicer to automatically deduct your monthly payments from a valid bank account via Automated Clearing House (“ACH”). The rate reduction applies for as long as the monthly payment amount is successfully deducted from the designated bank account and is suspended during periods of forbearance and certain deferments. Variable rates may increase after consummation. (2)$5,000 is the minimum requirement to refinance. The maximum loan amount is $300,000 for those with medical, dental, pharmacy or veterinary doctorate degrees, and $150,000 for all other undergraduate or graduate degrees. (3)This informational repayment example uses typical loan terms for a refi borrower with a Full Principal & Interest Repayment and a 10-year repayment term, has a $40,000 loan and a 5.5% Annual Percentage Rate (“APR”): 120 monthly payments of $434.11 while in the repayment period, for a total amount of payments of $52,092.61. Loans will never have a full principal and interest monthly payment of less than $50. Your actual rates and repayment terms may vary. Information advertised valid as of 1/27/2021. Variable interest rates may increase after consummation.
ELFI: Subject to credit approval. Terms and conditions apply. To qualify for refinancing or student loans consolidation through ELFI, you must have at least $15,000 in student loan debt and must have earned a bachelor’s degree or higher from an approved post-secondary institution.
LendKey: Refinancing via LendKey.com is only available for applicants with qualified private education loans from an eligible institution. Loans that were used for exam preparation classes, including, but not limited to, loans for LSAT, MCAT, GMAT, and GRE preparation, are not eligible for refinancing with a lender via LendKey.com. If you currently have any of these exam preparation loans, you should not include them in an application to refinance your student loans on this website. Applicants must be either U.S. citizens or Permanent Residents in an eligible state to qualify for a loan. Certain membership requirements (including the opening of a share account and any applicable association fees in connection with membership) may apply in the event that an applicant wishes to accept a loan offer from a credit union lender. Lenders participating on LendKey.com reserve the right to modify or discontinue the products, terms, and benefits offered on this website at any time without notice. LendKey Technologies, Inc. is not affiliated with, nor does it endorse, any educational institution.
CommonBond: Offered terms are subject to change. Loans are offered by CommonBond Lending, LLC (NMLS # 1175900). If you are approved for a loan, the interest rate offered will depend on your credit profile, your application, the loan term selected and will be within the ranges of rates shown. All Annual Percentage Rates (APRs) displayed assume borrowers enroll in auto pay and account for the 0.25% reduction in interest rate.
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Earnest: To qualify, you must be a U.S. citizen or possess a 10-year (non-conditional) Permanent Resident Card, reside in a state Earnest lends in, and satisfy our minimum eligibility criteria. You may find more information on loan eligibility here: https://www.earnest.com/eligibility. Not all applicants will be approved for a loan, and not all applicants qualify for the lowest rate. Approval and interest rate depend on the review of a complete application.
Earnest’s fixed-rate loan rates range from 3.89% APR (with autopay) to 7.89% APR (with autopay). Variable rate loan rates range from 2.50% APR (with autopay) to 7.27% APR (with autopay). For variable rate loans, although the interest rate will vary after you are approved, the interest rate will never exceed 8.95% for loan terms of 10 years or less. For loan terms of 10 to 15 years, the interest rate will never exceed 9.95%. For loan terms over 15 years, the interest rate will never exceed 11.95% (the maximum rates for these loans). Earnest variable interest rate loans are based on a publicly available index, the one month London Interbank Offered Rate (LIBOR). Your rate will be calculated each month by adding a margin between 0.26% and 5.03% to the one month LIBOR. The rate will not increase more than once per month. Earnest rate ranges are current as of April 23, 2019 and are subject to change based on market conditions and borrower eligibility.
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Ascent: Ascent’s undergraduate and graduate student are funded by Bank of Lake Mills, Member FDIC. Loan products may not be available in certain jurisdictions. Certain restrictions, limitations; and terms and conditions may apply. For Ascent Terms and Conditions please visit: www.AscentFunding.com/Ts&Cs. Rates are effective as of 5/1/2023 and reflect an automatic payment discount of either 0.25% (for credit-based loans) OR 1.00% (for undergraduate outcomes-based loans). Automatic Payment Discount is available if the borrower is enrolled in automatic payments from their personal checking account and the amount is successfully withdrawn from the authorized bank account each month. For Ascent rates and repayment examples please visit: AscentFunding.com/Rates. 1% Cash Back Graduation Reward subject to terms and conditions. Cosigned Credit-Based Loan student must meet certain minimum credit criteria. The minimum score required is subject to change and may depend on the credit score of your cosigner. Lowest APRs require interest-only payments, the shortest loan term, and a cosigner, and are only available to our most creditworthy applicants and cosigners with the highest average credit scores.