In the August 2006 issue, RDH asked readers for information regarding income and benefits. Here are the results.
A hygienist works part time and anticipates earning $80,000 in 2006. Another hygienist expects to earn $20,000 on a full-time basis. Both live in the same state!
Such oddities are encountered when conducting salary surveys. The one that startles us is when we browse through a respondent’s answers and think the income seems awfully low. We expect a lynch-the-dentist attitude with the answers to a couple of subjective questions. Instead, we’ll encounter nothing but happiness. Sometimes a hygienist will even draw a little smiley face beside his or her answer. On the other hand, the person making the largest hourly or daily rate sometimes doesn’t think the raises are coming fast enough. A little frown is drawn beside his or her answers.
Happiness in the occupation of dental hygiene is in the eye of the beholder, eh?
Enjoy the salary survey results for what they’re worth. Hopefully, you are treated with professional respect, earn a good income, and truly enjoy walking into the office each workday morning.
We think the median scale - the exact midpoint - helps. Most respondents were likely honest with their answers, since they want to compare notes, so to speak, in a way that helps them determine bargaining positions with employers. If you see your hourly rate in any of the demographic breakdowns listed, for example, you can visualize a long line of people. You’re in the exact middle of the line. Everyone in front of you earns more than you do. Everyone behind you earns less.
The beauty of what you do for a living is what you see with your eyes. Here’s more information about the demographic breakdowns:
Location - The questionnaire asked if you practice in a “metropolitan area, including suburbs” or in a “small town or rural area.” The question has been around for several years. It was inserted literally because New York City hygienists did not like being grouped with other hygienists in the state, even Buffalo. There is a distinction, as noted in the charts, but we would advise against thinking that country bumpkins don’t know how to negotiate salaries.
General dentistry - We asked a question that identified hygienists who work in public health or specialty practices. The overwhelming majority of RDH readers practice in general dentistry practices, and we wanted the median rates to reflect what’s the standard.
Experience - This is another old question that probably causes more grief than it’s worth. Simply stated, veterans don’t like it when rookies earn as much or more. It’s hard to promote the profession as a long-term endeavor if career experience never seems to mean anything.
ADHA - We debated on whether to add this question. The association itself maintains a healthy distance from any debate on whether membership bears a direct impact on income. But we’ve all heard ADHA members talk about the benefits of membership on their careers, even if it’s something vague such as confidence about self-worth. They may be right. Some states’ members do appear to earn more than non-members. Even if there’s just a dollar difference, that could mean an additional $1,500 a year, which more than covers the ADHA dues.
Raises - The percentages reflected in the charts are not always a direct inverse of each other. We saw many little notes saying to the effect, “Well, yeah, I got a raise last year, but I should have gotten it three years ago.”
Benefits - Some readers wish we would explore benefits in more detail. It’s just a little too hard for us to envision reporting on everything from uniform allowances to an extra $50 at Christmas to chocolate chip cookies on Wednesdays. So we focus on health insurance. We’re still surprised that such a large number of health-care professionals lack health-care insurance. We also remain surprised that dentistry still thinks it attracts a higher caliber of talent by wishing its employees would just rely on a spouse’s insurance policy.
Commissions - In addition to the income charts, many descriptions of the states have details regarding “alternative pay strategies.” It’s not intended to be comprehensive, but there are some interesting pay schedules out there.
1,120 RDH readers participated in the survey. Click here to view results of Salary Survey...
States’ statistics and alternative pay plans
Alabama Six responses. Four reported hourly rates and three were at $20 an hour. One commission only reported earning 23 percent of production with a daily minimum of $120. Another hygienist reported earning $7.30 an hour plus $7 per patient.
Alaska One response. One part-time hygienist in a rural setting reported an hourly rate of $45.
ArkansasSeven responses. Three hourly rates (median: $35.50) were reported for rural settings, and three daily rates (median: $260) were reported for metropolitan settings. A commission-only hygienist with a reported annual income of $70,000 receives 50 percent on “all procedures that I perform or delegate to my assistant.”
Arizona See chart on page 42 for income information. 77 percent of the metropolitan hygienists reported earning hourly rates in the $35 to $40 range. Comments about alternative pay strategies include:
Hawaii One response. One part-time hygienist in a metropolitan setting reported earning $36 an hour.
Idaho Five responses. The median hourly rate among six reported (one hygienist worked for two offices) was $30 in a range from $28 to $35.
Illinois See chart on page 43 for income information. In the metropolitan setting, 39 percent earn $35 to $36 an hour; another 15 percent earn $38 an hour. In the small town/rural setting, hourly rates range from $23 to $44; however, 38 percent report commission-only or daily rate pay schedules. Comments about alternative pay strategies include: