Dental Hygienist Compensation Question

I opened my practice in central Maryland 3 months ago. We have been growing like crazy. I am seeing about 6 or 7 new patients a day. The only problem with this is I have no time for dentistry, as all I do is new patient exams, prophies and scalings. We are booked out almost till the end of June (about 4 weeks). I am ready to hire a hygienist.

I put an ad on craigslist for a hygienist and received several applications. At first I wanted to hire an experienced hygienist, but ALL of the applications I received from experienced hygienists were clearly just looking for a higher paycheck, and not for a better workplace. I actually had one hygienist write in her cover letter, “I may not even want to work for you; I just want to see what my options are.” I do not want to hire someone just in it for the money.

I also received several applications from very recent hygiene school graduates. They are enthusiastic and excited for the new opportunity. I decided I would interview the new grads and see what they were like. Obviously, they have no experience and are going to be slow at first, but I was impressed by their enthusiasm. I want to hire someone who can grow with the practice, and stay long term. I want to hire someone willing to work part time at first, and then, if they work out well, work full time.

My question is: how much should I offer to pay these new graduates? One asked for $34-38 per hour. That seemed on the high-end to me, but maybe I am not realistic. What types of salary are you paying your hygienists? What I was thinking about doing is paying them a lower rate for a 90 day trial period, and if they work out well, bumping up their salary and hours. What do you think of that type of setup? I am concerned about paying on production because we participate with several PPOs, and I do not want to lose money hiring a hygienist. Do you offer your hygienists benefits, like vacation/sick time, health-care or a retirement plan?


Paying $34-38 per hour is LOW from what I’ve seen here in MD over the past 5+ years. If you were to ask what you should expect to pay I would have replied $40-45 per hour. That’s actually lower than what I would have replied with about 1-2 years ago.

…Last piece, the rule of thumb in terms of hygiene pay is that they should be compensated about 25%-30% of what they produce per hour.

…as a ratio this equates to the hygienist producing 3-4 times what they are paid. Here in this tri-state area (MDDCNOVA) while this ratio held true more than 7+ years ago, the ratio averages about 2.7 times what they’re paid these days. This is because hygienist compensation has increased sharply over the last 5-7 years in this area.

Again, the 2.7 times their compensation for their production is an average. There are practices doing 3.5-4 times their compensation (not many though) just like there are practices doing 2-2.5 times their compensation.

So if you can get your statistics for their compensation in the range of 30-40% of their production, you’re doing pretty well. Getting it below 30% and you’re doing great…at least in this tri-state area.

Thanks for all of the advice! I interviewed a bunch of candidates and one candidate just seemed to gel with the office from the moment she walked in. Her references spoke extremely highly of her. We just called and offered her the job and she was ecstatic. She is going to work 2 days a week until we are busy enough to have her work more, and then I’ll have her work 4 or 5 days a week. I am excited and hope she works out well.

The anticipation is killing me, were the ranges of compensation close?

I am paying her $34 an hour. I am buying her an LED light for her loupes, which I guess you could call a benefit. There are no other benefits other than that, although I guess working with me in my awesome practice, with my great equipment and staff is a benefit. In a year or so, when I set up a retirement plan for myself, I will get something that I can offer to all my employees. She said she did not want health insurance, due to her spouse having it, so we are good on that. I didn’t mention it to her, but I am a strong proponent of CE, and will probably take my entire staff to things now and then so that is a benefit as well.

Thanks for the feedback, very helpful. You did VERY well!

This first appeared on Dentaltown.

Send your questions to Tim Lott, CPA, CVA at

For more information or to sign up for our newsletter, please contact
Follow us on TwitterFacebook and Pinterest