4 factors that influence dental assistant pay

Whether you’re highly experienced or just starting your dental assisting career, you want to be paid fairly based on your skills and experience. In fact, dental assistants ranked salary as the most important factor to them in DANB’s Dental Assistants Salary and Satisfaction Survey, over things such as work-life balance and insurance benefits.

How much can you expect to make as an entry-level dental assistant? What can you do to increase your hourly wage? Just like in any industry, a dental assistant’s salary is based on many factors. Below are some of the most common elements that influence dental assistant pay.


When it comes to pay in any industry, location is a primary factor. In the United States, the median hourly wage varies from $16 to $29 per hour from state to state, according to DANB’s salary survey.

Typically, dental assistants working in bigger cities earn more than those in smaller towns. DANB’s salary survey found that Certified Dental Assistants in large urban areas (populations over 50,000) earn a median hourly wage of $25. Those in rural areas (populations of less than 2,500) earn a median of $23 per hour, while those in small urban areas (populations between 2,500 and 50,000) receive $20 per hour.

Read more: Which states pay dental assistants the most?


As you gain more experience as a dental assistant, you become more knowledgeable and, therefore, more valuable to your practice. Often, that can result in higher pay. Entry-level CDAs make a median hourly wage of $19 per hour, but the pay rate climbs as dental assistants get more experience under their belts.

Here’s how the median hourly wage increases for CDAs over time:

  • 1-2 years: $20 per hour
  • 3-5 years: $22 per hour
  • 6-10 years: $23.50 per hour
  • 10+ years: $25 per hour

Practice type

Where you work can also impact how much you earn as a dental assistant. More specialized practices tend to pay more, for example. DANB’s salary survey found that Certified Dental Assistants in general dentistry practices earn a median of $24 per hour. Oral surgery assistants have the highest median wages at $25.78 per hour, while orthodontic, endodontic, and prosthodontic assistants earn a median of $25 an hour.

Read more: Why dental assistants enjoy working in specialty practices


Earning credentials can benefit your career in many ways. It increases your knowledge, helps you stand out for job opportunities, and provides an increased sense of confidence and pride in your abilities. It can also lead to higher pay.

Dental assistants with DANB certification earn a median hourly wage of $24 per hour, while non-certified assistants earn a median of $19.93 per hour. Holding multiple certifications can increase your earning potential even further. DANB’s salary survey found that those with more than one certification receive a median of $26 per hour.

Read more: 4 benefits of DANB certification