Dental hygienists may spend more time with dentist office patients than the actual dentist, discussing problem areas, providing hygiene suggestions and preparing the patient for the dentist’s exam. Hygienists are trained medical professionals who study head and neck anatomy, gum disease, dental tools and proper mouth care health information. In Georgia, dental hygienists earned salaries slightly below the national baseline for the career, according to the most recent figures available.
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics determined that the country’s average salary for dental hygienists was $67,860 in 2009. Salaries were slightly less “peachy” for Georgia’s dental hygienists, who earned an annual statewide salary of approximately $65,730, lower by $2,130 than the national average. Within the state itself, salaries ranged widely. Georgia’s highest-paying area for dental hygienists was Atlanta-Sandy Springs-Marietta, with an average salary of $72,880 per year. Closely behind was Rome, offering a citywide average of $71,610. On the opposite end of the scale, several areas of Georgia paid significantly below both the state and national average. The city with the lowest average, of $44,060 per year, was Macon, followed by Warner Robbins paying $44,210 per year, and Albany, with an average dental hygienist salary of $45,770 per year.
Statewide Salary Ranges
Salaries for Georgia’s 5,620 dental hygienists were ranged widely. In the state’s 90th percentile overall, dental hygienist salaries averaged $83,850 per year, according to the BLS study. At the opposite end of the scale, dental hygienists earning at the bottom 10th percentile of the scale averaged $37,880 per year. Within the state, the Atlanta-Sandy Springs-Marietta area offered the highest 90th percentile salary of $86,010, followed by Valdosta at $84,920 and Savannah at $80,520. On the low end of the scale, dental hygienists in Warner Robbins earned the lowest at the 10th percentile, taking in $19,520 per year, followed by dental hygienists in Albany, earning $24,620 at the 10th percentile.
Educational Considerations and Training
Georgia residents seeking salaries as dental hygienists must seek postsecondary training through a two-year associate degree program at one of the hundreds of schools accredited by the American Dental Association’s Commission on Dental Accreditation. The Commission accredits 15 in-state schools, including Middle Georgia Technical College, Armstrong Atlantic State University, Georgia Highlands College, Central Georgia Technical College, Georgia Perimeter College and West Georgia Technical College. Prospective hygienists take the National Dental Examination to receive their licenses, which are not reciprocal; this means that if a hygienist moves to a new state, he must retake the test before securing employment.
Two factors combine to produce an anticipated increase in dental hygienist employment: the general public’s increased access to dental health coverage and an aging population’s need for more dental services. The BLS expects a 36 percent growth in dental hygienist employment, adding 62,900 jobs through 2018 countrywide.