Dental assistants are far from the most well compensated employees in a typical practice, but that does not mean that there is not considerable range in the dental assistant salary values. Dental assistants can make between $18,900 in West Virginia or $59,000 in San Francisco, and that is just in the United States.
However, for a job that typically requires only a year of post-high school education, there are opportunities to reach relatively moderate-income levels in other countries, too; Canadian dental assistants make between C$38,000 and C$48,000 a year, while those in the UK can earn up to 27,000 GBP per annum.
In this guide, we will look at how the salaries and training requirements for dental assistants can differ across the English-speaking world. While most dental assistants make relatively modest incomes, location helps determine just how high those wages will go.
How much does a Dental Assistant Make?
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Dental Assistant Salary Determinant Factors
While the amounts can vary widely, it is important to note that these are simply the median figures; however, overwhelmingly experience does little to change earnings potential. Instead, geographic location within a given country matters more. However, as those salaries rise, so too do living expenses.
1. How Much Does a Dental Assistant Make by Country?
Dental Assistant Salaries in US
One of the greatest ranges in potential earnings is found in the United States, where dental assistants can make between $18,900 and $59,000. Median earnings are around $15.38 an hour, with some practices paying as much as $20 an hour. Again, much of this is more dependent on geography than experience. Also, as a dental assistant is not required to have much in the way of post-secondary education in the United States, many use it as a stepping stone to a more highly-compensated position as a dental hygienist.
Dental Assistant Salaries in Canada
Canadian dental assistants enjoy some of the highest salaries for the practice in the English-speaking world. A typical dental assistant salary range between C$38,000 and C$48,000 per year. However, that number is unlikely to increase given more experience. Instead, the highest salaries go to those who live in the most expensive postal codes.
Dental Assistant Salaries in UK
British dental assistants alternatively have some of the lowest wages in the English-speaking world for their work. A typical salary is only 18,000 GBP, while the upper reaches of the profession reach 27,000 GBP. However, those numbers are had only in Central London, meaning either a long commute or considerable living expenses to be had.
Dental Assistant Salary in Australia
Australian dental assistants fare better than their British colleagues, making around A$44,580 per year. Unlike many other regions, there is a slight upward trend as experience increases. However, much of this has to do with acquired skills; dental assistants with skills taking X-rays report better earnings.
Dental Assistant Salary in New Zealand
A dental assistant in New Zealand stands ready to make 44,000 NZD across his or her career on average, with a slight upward tick in wages with extra experience. Many New Zealand practices will subsidize a person’s training costs, which accounts for much of this difference.
2. How Much Does a Dental Assistant Make According to Experience?
No matter what the country, dental assistant salaries are relatively low for healthcare roles, but have the potential to be firmly within the middle class. Experience does little to change that number, outside of those with enough years at a particular practice to be viewed as an essential part of the team, likely a minority owner, or for those who are finishing a training program. Some countries, like Australia, allow dental assistants to earn certification in other fields to augment their earnings.
Instead, the best way for a dental assistant salary to really increase his or her real earnings in many cases is to gain additional education. Dental hygienists make considerably more than their dental assistant colleagues, but the latter acts as a great introduction to the practice. Of course, finding a way to become indispensable, and thus earn additional earnings and profit-sharing bonuses, may be the longest, yet the most lucrative, route possible.
3. How Much Does a Dental Assistant Make According to Work Environment?
As a rule, those dental assistants working in private practice will make more than those in public employ, although this is by no means hard and fast. Much of this is not dependent on the wages themselves, but on the attitude of the owners of a private practice; the owning dentist(s) may see fit to reward loyalty or to provide seasonal bonuses. Also, more specialized dental practices, such as orthodontists, will have more opportunities for salary increases based on work environment.
However, the largest determining factor with regard to work environment and wages comes as a result of geography. As is the case in many fields, being in a rural area means that pay will be lower. That said, do not pack any bags just yet; in several cases, urban and more affluent areas do pay more, but the added costs of living tend to outpace even a tripling of the lowest rural wages.
One of the most important perks of being a dental assistant is the relatively predictable working hours. Most practices only operate during normal business hours, though some are increasingly open later in the evening or even on Saturdays. Expect those hours to be more well-paid. This means that there is little chance of missing out on social occasions, and that planned vacations and holidays are less likely to be interrupted.
Of course, there is an exception. A dental assistant who has made himself or herself especially valuable may be called in to assist during a dental emergency. That said, those occurrences are quite rare, and are almost always met with considerable overtime earnings.
Bonuses and Benefits
Bonuses and benefits can vary widely between different practices. Health insurance is typically available, but is not as frequently completely subsidized. Meanwhile, other fringe benefits, such as investment programs, are often quite lacking. That said, one benefit informally offered is subsidized, if not free, dental care.
Bonuses also differ greatly. Some practices choose not to offer any at all; others may offer a rather substantial bonus during the holiday season. Much of this has to do with the earnings of the practice as well as the attitude of the owners. For those dental assistants who find a way to become partial owners, such monetary benefits increase dramatically.
Across the entire English-speaking world, dental care remains a quickly growing field. Demand for professionals like dental assistants remains at a high rate. That said, because of the relatively low educational bar required to become a dental assistant, there is little in the way of opportunity for immigrate to a different country based solely off of one’s dental assistant skills.
For those willing to sacrifice some level of earnings to secure a stable career without much in the way of post-secondary educational training, becoming a dental assistant can provide a stable, albeit relatively modest, income for years to come. Many dental assistants use the role as a jumping point to gain higher qualifications related to dentistry, especially as dental hygienists.
That said, those looking for international mobility are suggested to shy away from careers as dental assistants, as most English-speaking countries see little in the way of demonstrated demand so as to let such professionals in on that merit alone.