What’s Your Hygienist Worth?
by Sally McKenzie CEO
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Your hygienist should be a key producer in your practice. She/he is a primary link between you and your patients. She/he is potentially the most influential person in your office when it comes to encouraging patients to pursue treatment. How much should you pay your hygienist? How much can you afford to pay her/him? You want to be fair. You want your patients to have the best care your practice can deliver. You also want to protect your overhead costs.
Obviously, the hygienist’s salary can have a significant impact on the practice’s bottom line. Too much and you’ll quickly tip beyond the 22% benchmark for staff salaries (excluding the doctor), too little and she/he will likely be a “short-timer” in your practice and you’re scrambling to fill the void.
While individual practice salaries are influenced by a number of factors, hygiene salaries should not exceed 33% of the hygienist’s production. Moreover, pay should never be increased without first conducting a salary review. The Salary Review is a clear and simple mathematical tool you can access immediately to determine exactly how much more money you’ll need to collect each month to cover a pay increase. It ensures that you are making an informed decision when it comes to salary increases.
Additionally, when considering salaries and pay increases, it’s helpful to have some idea what the going rate is for hygienists in your state and region. The January issue of RDH Magazine includes the results of the publication’s most recent hygienist salary survey.
Most hygienists responding to the survey work in general dentistry practices. While responses were received from all 50 states and the District of Columbia, those states that provided the majority of responses are listed below. Of those, California has the highest median hourly rate while Florida, Pennsylvania, and New York have the lowest. However, of the states submitting fewer than 20 responses, Alabama appears to have the lowest median hourly rate at $20. And hourly income does appear to be influenced somewhat by whether the practice is in a metropolitan or rural area.
- Ranking by state
Statewide median hourly rate:
- California $44
- Washington $42
- Maryland $37
- Colorado $37
- Arizona $37
- New Jersey $37
- Virginia $36
- Connecticut $35
- Massachusetts $35
- Illinois $35
- Minnesota $33
- Texas $33
- Georgia $32
- North Carolina $32
- Missouri $30
- Michigan $29
- Ohio $29
- Wisconsin $29
- New York $28
- Pennsylvania $28
- Florida $28
In addition to hourly rates, some hygienists indicated that they receive a percentage of their production. Others noted that they receive bonuses based on whether the practice achieves it’s monthly goal. Some hygienists receive additional compensation for taking X-rays, selling products, perio treatment, prophies, sealants, etc. Others receive additional compensation based on their collections. Still others indicated that they are on straight commission and are paid anywhere from 33% to 55% of production.
In addition to considering appropriate compensation for this key player on your team, consider other steps your practice can take to ensure the hygiene department is a full contributor to total practice success:
- Insist on periodontal assessment. One-third of hygiene production should be in interceptive periodontal therapy. Require the hygienist to measure the total number of dollars produced in the 4,000 code and divide it by their total production.
- Review hygiene production each month during the team’s monthly meeting.
- Customize the time per patient based on patient need, not on a standard one-hour allocation for each patient.
- Provide hygiene hours in the evening if patients are requesting late appointments.
- Expect the hygienist to use the intra-oral camera, so patients can see the condition of their mouths every six months..
- Expect the hygienist to review previously proposed treatments for the patients and reinforce the doctor’s recommended treatment plan.
- Expect the hygienist to speak positively about the doctor’s professional abilities, recent continuing education courses, or specific cases (without referring to specific patients) that have been particularly impressive.
- Expect the hygienist to educate the patient, not only on oral hygiene, but also on practice services.
For information on the RDH Salary and Benefits Survey, visit www.rdhmag.com.
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