Most Dentists Pay Their Dental Hygienists by the Hour

Post your comments about dental hygienists to our blog.

Dental Hygienists: Hourly or CommissionIn our most recent survey, we asked dentists if they pay their hygienists an hourly wage, or if compensation is based on commission. Four out of five dentist report paying hygienists a base hourly wage. Only 19% say their hygienists are paid on commission.

Read the dentists’ comments for more insight into their thoughts on dental hygienists.

General dentists versus specialists


Specialists were significantly more likely than general dentists to pay their dental hygienists on commission.

Urban, suburban and rural dentists

 Urban hygienists are twice as likely as their rural counterparts to be paid on commission. Nonetheless, regardless of where a dental practice is located, the clear majority of dentists prefer to pay a base hourly wage.

For more insight into what our respondents are thinking, check out their comments!

Where would dentists be without hygienists?

  • "Hygienists are a critical aspect of any practice." (Prosthodontist paying commission)
  • "Can't live without them!" (Illinois dentist paying commission)
  • "They are worth their weight in gold." (Connecticut dentist paying commission)

Expensive, but worth the price

  • "My hygienists are among the most important people on my team. Although they get $35-37 per hour, I consider both of them to be worth every penny I gladly pay them."
  • "They are expensive but they are worth it. Why would I want to do hygiene procedures instead of operative?" (Missouri dentist)
  • "They are paid a lot but usually worth it." (California dentist)

Dentists get tired of paying hygienists

  • "Most are overpaid." (Indiana dentist)
  • "A necessary evil." (Ohio dentist)
  • "Over priced." (New Hampshire dentist)
  • "Paid too much for their training, which is usually poor. These are well-meaning people who haven't been prepared by their schooling to do what is required. Most are ‘cleaning’ people rather than ‘hygiene practitioners.’ It takes a lot to reverse the bad behaviors learned in Hygiene School." (New York dentist)

The Economics of hygiene are changing

  • "Practices couldn't run without them, but the current economics barely break even at best. Hygienists seem to think they are cash cows for the office and fail to recognize that additional support and facilities that they utilize." (Washington dentist)
  • "Scheduled biyearly visits should be a basic generator of income. With decreases in insurance reimbursements for these services, this is changing." (Connecticut dentist)
  • "Not a big profit center, but essential to the overall health of the practice." (California dentist)
  • "I would like for my hygienists to produce 3 times their salary." (Iowa dentist)

Dentists say it's a hygienist's market

  • "Due to somewhat of a shortage, they can demand higher salaries." (Oregon dentist)
  • "They suck, but there are too few of them in this area for a doc to have any leverage. The whole hygiene dilemma make me sick." (Maryland dentist)
  • "My hygienists make quite a bit of money on commission. They sell sealants, fluoride, Arrestin, perio med, not to mention crowns, Invisalign, etc." (Michigan dentist paying commission)

Battling hygienist downtime

  • "Hourly wages are unfair; the dentist takes all the risk. I continually have to remind my hygienists to utilize downtime constructively for something other than 'dusting' their workspaces. But in past when I paid on commission, I tended to lose my hygiene staff during downtime." (Georgia pediatric dentist)
  • "Hygiene production should be booked just as dentist are booked. Hygienist should be doing what they are licensed to do and support staff should used to shorten appointment visit to make it more productive." (California dentist paying commission)
  • "Hygienists in this area have an inflated opinion of their worth. Pay rate is a major issue, and most of the time the prima-donna syndrome plays a big part in how they produce. If they're in the mode that they should be getting more money, then there is a definite slowdown in any dental sales."

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