Is your dental hygiene salary on the lower end?

Is your dental hygiene salary on the lower end?

Here are some quick tips if you are searching for a new job or re-negotiating a better dental hygiene salary:

Should I or Shouldn’t I?

  • You probably should! Studies show, women are less likely to negotiate than men. If you have not had an adjustment to your dental hygiene salary in one or two years, you should absolutely not be afraid to ask. Even if the employer doesn’t agree to one, you’ve at least got them thinking (and maybe even worrying a bit). That’s not a bad thing. If they can’t give you what you want, maybe it will at least lead to something you wouldn’t mind (like some paid vacation days). It’s for sure worth asking.

Think Win-Win

  • The most important consideration of any negotiation is win-win. If either you or the employer feels they lost or won – neither of you wins. Both of you have to win or the victory will be short-lived for one or both of you. So proceed with the idea in mind you may not get everything exactly as you want it, but know ahead of time what’s sufficient to make it work.

Do Your Homework

  • Utilize the dental hygiene salary information above, but also talk with other hygienists in your area to get their take on it. Another great resource are temporary staffing agencies who have a pretty good idea of dental hygiene salaries in your specific area. Some even provide quarterly reports.
  • Know what your unique skills and abilities are and use them as you describe your value to the practice. It’s really helpful if you can produce results you have impacted either directly or as a team member.
  • You also need to know the scarcity of dental hygiene professionals in your area. Are there lots of applicants for jobs? If there are, you will really need to work hard to differentiate and position yourself as the best solution for that office (mentioned above).
  • Economic conditions for both the community and that particular office are usually big factors and aren’t always aligned. Some offices may be booming while the community they are located is suffering (or vice versa). The community conditions aren’t as hard to learn or see, but the office may be harder to determine. But, observe the age of the equipment and ask them how long the practice has been around and that will help.
  • Ask questions to fully understand the entire job package – not just the hourly wage, but salary structure, bonuses, health and retirement benefits, and paid vacation and sick leave. If your dental hygiene salary is based on production or patient load, it’s fair to ask where those levels have been over that last few months or even years – that will also give you an idea if the practice is headed in the right direction. And, let’s face it, there’s a big difference between seeing 8 patients a day and 20.
  • And there are other factors, too, such as how far the office is from where you live (obviously, there’s a cost to transportation). Also consider the neighborhood you will be working in – do you feel safe there? How about the office staff and doctor – do you feel comfortable with them at this point? Are there regular reviews and/or cost of living adjustments?
  • For each and every job you interview for create an organized salary negotiation plan that takes into account all the factors at play. Have three figures in mind: one on the high side, one in the middle and one that would be the bare minimum of what you need.

The Right Time

  • If you are applying for a job, avoid the subject of salaries until you are one of the finalists for the job. Some may insist you give them your salary requirements – if so, give them a really broad range and indicate that it will depend on a lot factors – something with an $6 to $8 per hour spread. Or you can simply say you are aware of industry averages and comfortable with them for the area. Here’s a couple more great responses:
    • “For me, it’s not entirely about the money. If we’re a good match I am sure we can work out an agreeable salary.” 
    • ” What do you have budgeted for the position? I am sure we can work with that.”
  • If you simply re-negotiating a current salary, pay close attention to the mood of the office and pick up on cues that might indicate when times are good and not-so-good. The last day of the week your office is open can be a good time. So, too, can be just before or after the boss goes on vacation. It’s different for everyone and so just study it out and choose the best opportunity.

Counter Offer the Offer

  • If they make you an offer, don’t be afraid to make a counter offer – in fact it’s recommended. There are lots of things you can counter with. Doesn’t have to be straight salary, it could be covering your continuing education or uniform – anything! You could also counter offer for them to review your performance and adjust your salary after six months (that’s a great win-win).
  • It’s probably okay to counter offer up to a couple times, but make sure it’s over more finite details the further you go. Beyond a couple rounds can become more of a nuisance and source of frustration for everyone and you won’t end up with what you want. Be okay with smaller victories.
  • Use the if/then technique. If you make it known the salary isn’t quite what you want, need or expect and you still want to consider the offer tell the employer you are willing to make the concession if they are willing to concede something as well (perhaps some type of benefit).
  • Stick to your guns. If you really truly have to have your dental hygiene salary at a certain level then don’t compromise if they reject a counter offer. Unless you need the job as just a temporary stop-over, and you’ve been realistic in your expectations then move on.


  • Before you accept any offer (whether it’s surprisingly good or a little less than hoped for), pause. First, there’s the immediate pause. Good negotiators know that if you pause for the right amount of time (seconds) after an offer you are sending a signal that it’s not quite what you wanted. There are times the person making the offer will flinch a little bit and up the offer with some kind of perk or even a little more salary. That little pause can boost the offer.
  • But, there’s also a more lengthier pause to consider. You want to take time to truly evaluate all the different factors and think about not only this short-term offer, but the long-term potential as well. The office you are considering or working at, may have a lot of upside or downside and that’s important to think about. Where will this office be in five years? How about ten years? Where will you be, what will your needs be. Tell the employer you would like 24 hours to consider the offer.

Final Advice

  • Get everything you agree to in writing – especially if it’s something you negotiated for or was outside the normal package. This protects not only you but them, too, and it just helps prevent any confusion or forgetfulness which unfortunately happens all the time.
  • Dental hygiene salary negotiation is an “ask” or “request” it’s not a demand – especially when you are newly hired. There are very few people who are not replaceable in the dental world. You have value for sure, but there’s always a tipping point and it’s different for every employer to stay realistic and helpful for your employer.
  • Always maintain a high level of professionalism in your negotiation efforts. Nothing will hurt your chances to improve your earning situation more than creating a situation where you don’t handle it well and with class. Never let it turn into something personal (even if you feel the results are based on things outside your control or are unfair).
  • Keep in mind, most government jobs are not very flexible. They usually have a very rigid set of hiring guidelines and there’s not much room for negotiation.
  • Give the employer a thank you note when the negotiation is complete.