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20 Years by Ryan Downing

I was inspired to write this post because of an experience in July when I went to Seattle Central College to surprise a student with a tuition scholarship from Dental Connections. When I arrived in the classroom there was a hygienist there that I helped many years ago. She is now a clinical instructor at the college. She heard I was coming to campus and popped in to say hello. I met her as a new grad from Lake WA in June 2002. She was a fantastic temp that summer and later we found her a job with a practice she stayed with for 14 years. We talked by email or phone throughout the years, but had not seen each other since we met. When I saw her in the classroom she greeted me with a warm hug rather than the standard professional handshake. We talked to each other like barely a day had passed since that interview 17 years ago. It really struck me in that moment how strong the bonds are with the dental professionals we help at DC. When you treat others with honesty, kindness, and respect, they do not forget and it is meaningful.

This is what the company I helped build is all about. We are not just a temp agency. We are not a middleman. We do not take advantage of anyone. We are a service that is supportive of both dental professionals and practices. Temporary and permanent placement, resume critique, interview tips, salary negotiation, dispute resolution, and sometimes just a shoulder to cry on – we do all of this and more. The finesse that goes on behind the scenes to do it well is hard to fathom if you do not work inside our company. The feeling we hope applicants and clients are left with is that DC has their back. We go out of our way to be available for whatever advice and support is needed.

August marks my 20th year with Dental Connections. Applicants sometimes ask me how I got in this business so I feel it is a great time to tell some intimate details of my dental story. My Mom started DC in 1982 and ran it for 20 years. I grew up around the family business and never had any intention of ever working at DC. As funny as that sounds, it was not something we ever talked about as a family. I graduated from the University of Washington and after a few years of working in Hawaii and California my Mom called. I still even remember where I was sitting in my apartment in San Francisco when we had a conversation that literally changed the course of my life. Her intent was just to vent and ask for business advice. She used to say, “I paid for you to go to business school at UW so I get to take advantage pf the education too!” This is something she did often. She was lamenting the loss of a key employee and described everything she wanted in a new hire. Who she was describing was me. So I said why not hire me? She said no, I don’t think so Son. Many objections were raised from DC never having a male employee to it ruining our family relationship if my employment turned out poorly. So I flew up to Seattle and pitched myself to her. It was very important we have ground rules about keeping family and business relationships separate. She hired me and I started the first week of August 1999 as a placement consultant interviewing dental assistants and receptionists. DC had record years 1999-2001 and our brand grew tremendously. Maybe I kind of like this business I thought…

I spent three years as an employee before I signed a contract to purchase DC in June 2002. DC is not a huge company by my design. We have grown from one office to three offices the past 10 years, but we still maintain a small team of employees and the personal touch we have always been known for. I never wanted to be a multi-state DSO and have no intention of taking DC that route. There are many accomplishments I am proud of. We started our Seattle office from scratch in 2008 just before the Great Recession and it still flourished. We started giving tuition scholarships to 1st year dental hygiene students in 2015 and this year for the first time we awarded two of them. We bought a colleague’s agency in Bellevue in 2016 and enabled her to retire. What I am most proud of though are my employees. I am so grateful to have longevity and continuity on my staff. We have a strong bond. There are highs and lows. Laughter and tears. Celebrations and drama. Yes there is a boss-employee relationship, but I would be lying if I did not tell you they feel like my sisters. I am an only child and I cannot help getting attached to be people I care about. From longest to shortest tenure: Cyndy Burki, Tammy Smith, Shanan Salado, Alicia Jardine, Vannara Jimenez, Valerie Stewart, and Darla Anderson. Thank you. Almost 80 years of experience at DC between us. Simply amazing.

Many things have changed in 20 years. No doubt I have grown up a lot. I have a young family that is the central focus of my life. I feel so much gratitude and humility for the success I have achieved personally and professionally. Outside of my family and friends, DC is a big reason why I am so fortunate. Here’s to another 20 years!

Ryan, Ryder, and Sara Downing

2019-2020 RDH Salary & Benefits Survey

This year we surveyed restorative RDHs separately and also separated North and South King County. Unfortunately, we did not get enough responses on the restorative survey to publish statistically significant data. We tried to be more specific in our E. WA communities as well, but again, not enough replies from that side of the state for further detail. Thank you to Pam at the WSDHA for her PR and to Christine Avram and Grace Choi for contributing to the resto survey. If you want a PDF version emailed to you please request it from ryan@dentalconnections.com. We are happy to answer any of your questions.

RESPONDENTS: 473

Full Time Hygienists (3-5 days/wk): 80%
Part Time Hygienists (1-2 days/wk): 20%
Working in General Practice: 96%
Working in Specialty Practice: 4%

SALARY PER HOUR
WA State Average $48.74

North King County $50.49 (Seattle/Bellevue)
South King County $49.15 (Renton to Federal Way/Auburn)
Snohomish County $49.99
Pierce County $48.35
Thurston/Mason County $47.50
Kitsap County $51.15
Skagit/Whatcom County $47.86
Cowlitz/Clark County $42.50
Coastal Counties $49.50
Eastern Washington $41.66

YEARS OF EXPERIENCE
Overall Average 11.65 years
With Current Position 5.26 years

DUTIES PERFORMED
94% Recall
98% Periodontal Procedures
21% Impressions
97% Digital X-rays
9% X-rays
96% Anesthesia
81% Nitrous Oxide Admin
79% Schedule Appointments
54% Photography
3% Rubber Dam Placement
11% Laser
52% Sealants

BENEFITS PROVIDED
Important note: part time and full time respondent results are combined which lowers the percentages of some categories. Part time employees generally have fewer benefits than full time employees.

60% Medical Insurance
84% Dental Insurance
6% Life Insurance
64% Retirement (54% include employer contribution)
43% Bonuses
81% Paid Vacation
74% Holidays
66% C/E Paid
49% Uniform Allowance


2019 Scholarship Award Winner

Karina Daily is the recipient of one of the Dental Connections’ 2019 scholarship awards. This is our 5th year awarding a scholarship. We had so many worthy students apply that we have decided to give a 2nd award later this year.

Karina is our first winner from Shoreline Community College. While completing hygiene school and passing boards is an impressive feat in and of itself, she did it while caring for two young children. We are very proud of Karina’s academic accomplishments. The dental hygiene community is gaining a tremendous asset this summer. Good luck Karina!

Ryan and Karina at Shoreline in April.

2018-19 Dental Assistant Salary Survey

DENTAL ASSISTANT SALARY AND BENEFITS SURVEY 2018

RESPONDENTS: 134
Full Time Assistants (3-5 days/wk): 79%
Part Time Assistants (1-2 days/wk): 21%
Working in General Practice: 84%
Working in Specialty Practice: 16%

SALARY PER HOUR
WA State Average $23.45

• King County $24.57
• Snohomish County $24.33
• Pierce County $22.85
• Thurston/Mason County $21.82
• Kitsap County $20.00
• Skagit/Whatcom County No Data
• Cowlitz/Clark County No Data
• Coastal Counties No Data
• Eastern Washington No Data

YEARS OF EXPERIENCE
Overall Average 11.67 years
With Current Position 3.66 years

SKILL SET
Basic Assistant 40%
Expanded Duties Assistant 44%
Specialty Assistant 16%

BENEFITS PROVIDED

Important note: part time and full time respondent results are combined which lowers the percentages of some categories. Part time employees generally have fewer benefits than full time employees.

Medical Insurance 61%
Dental Insurance 83%
Life Insurance 9%
Retirement 56%
Bonuses 44%
Paid Vacation 81%
Paid Holidays 79%
Continuing Education 36%
Uniform Allowance 41%

Expanded Functions Dental Auxiliaries were surveyed separately. There were 19 respondents with an average wage of $27.26


2018-19 Hygienist Salary and Benefits Survey

Dental Connections and the Washington Dental Hygienists’ Association have partnered since 2008 to produce accurate, comprehensive, and current statistics about dental hygienist wages and benefits in dental offices. Dental Connections has provided salary survey data for over 25 years and this information is critical for all dental professionals and dental practices. Thank you to all of the hygienists that participated. A special thank you to Pamela An for helping us cross promote this survey through the Association’s marketing channels.

Before you read the results, we want to point out some weaknesses this survey has:

• It surveys ALL types of hygienists: traditional, restorative, part time, full time, experienced, new grads, etc. We know restorative RDHs make more than traditional RDHs. We know full time workers receive better benefits than part time workers. In most cases experienced professionals that have spent more time in a single practice are compensated higher for loyalty.

• A large number of respondents are from rural counties and this drags down the overall WA State hourly average.

• 21% of respondents are part time workers and this has a dramatic effect on the benefit statistics. The benefit percentages are lower as a result of the part time workers reporting lesser benefits.

• The King County average is $48.55, but one must take into account a huge demographic area that includes cities like Federal Way, Auburn, etc. The average in South King County is lower and the larger cities of Seattle and Bellevue are higher.

Before determining whether your hourly rate is fair, you have to consider all of the important factors such as the city you live in, the hygiene role you perform, the type of practice you work in, and the benefits you receive (which can add approximately $5-$15/hour to your wage). Similarly, dental offices weigh these factors before making a job offer or negotiating a raise for existing staff.

When we counsel dental professionals about a compensation package the most overlooked portion is benefits. There is a tendency to only focus on the hourly wage and there is a lack of education about how much the employer is spending on benefits. Colleagues like to discuss how much they are making per hour because it seems the most relevant. It may not be as exciting to say “I get one sick day per quarter and a 3% contribution to a 401k”. Our advice to both employees and employers is to make sure they have a full understanding of the total compensation package and shift the focus away from the hourly rate by itself.

If you want more in depth analysis or a conversation about your particular situation, please contact a placement consultant at Dental Connections.

DENTAL HYGIENIST SALARY AND BENEFITS SURVEY 2018

RESPONDENTS: 553

Full Time Hygienists (3-5 days/wk): 79%
Part Time Hygienists (1-2 days/wk): 21%
Traditional Hygienists 93%
Restorative Hygienists 7%
Working in General Practice: 93%
Working in Specialty Practice: 7%

SALARY PER HOUR
WA State Average $47.09

• King County $48.55
• Snohomish County $47.67
• Pierce County $46.56
• Thurston/Mason County $45.71
• Kitsap County $48.84
• Skagit/Whatcom County $45.73
• Cowlitz/Clark County $39.00
• Coastal Counties $49.64
• Eastern Washington $40.73

YEARS OF EXPERIENCE
Overall Average 12.12 years
With Current Position 5.33 years

DUTIES PERFORMED
89% Recall
49% Photography
95% Periodontal Procedures
6% Rubber Dam Placement
16% Restorative Procedures
23% Impressions
12% X-rays
4% Temporaries
93% Digital X-rays
83% Computer in Op
96% Anesthesia
53% Sealants
78% Nitrous Oxide Admin
75% Schedule Appointments
20% Business Office Duties
9% Laser

BENEFITS PROVIDED
Important note: part time and full time respondent results are combined which lowers the percentages of some categories. Part time employees generally have fewer benefits than full time employees.

56% Medical Insurance
84% Dental Insurance
11% Life Insurance
61% Retirement
45% Bonuses
80% Paid Vacation
71% Holidays
66% C/E Paid
47% Uniform Allowance


2018 Dental Connections Scholarship Award Winner

We proudly announce that Lana Nguyen from Seattle Central College is our 2018 scholarship recipient. This is our 4th year awarding a scholarship to a 1st year dental hygiene student. Lana is the first winner from Seattle Central College. Lana grew up in Vietnam and immigrated to the United States when she was 17. She lives in South Seattle and has a very strong connection to her community. She was fortunate to find a mentor who is a dentist. She started volunteering in his office and this led her to pursue dental hygiene as a career. Lana has a very bright future in dentistry and we wish her the best in her pursuit to become a registered dental hygienist in 2019. Congratulations Lana!

This photo was taken at Seattle Central’s clinic. Ryan showed up unannouced to surprise Lana in front of her classmates. A special thank you to Lauren Acheson for setting the surprise visit up.


2017-18 Hygienist Salary and Benefits Survey

Dental Connections and the WDHA have partnered since 2008 to produce accurate, comprehensive, and current statistics about dental hygienist wages and benefits in dental offices. Dental Connections has provided salary survey data for over 25 years and this information is critical for all dental professionals and dental practices. We had a record number of respondents this year and want to thank everyone who participated. A special thank you to Michael Broome for helping us cross promote this survey through the Association’s marketing channels.

Before you read the results, we want to point out some weaknesses this survey has:

• It surveys ALL types of hygienists: traditional, restorative, part time, full time, experienced, new grads, etc. We know restorative RDHs make more than traditional RDHs. We know full time workers receive better benefits than part time workers. In most cases experienced professionals that have spent more time in a single practice are compensated higher for loyalty.

• A large number of respondents are from rural counties and this drags down the overall WA State hourly average.

• 26% of respondents are part time workers and this has a dramatic effect on the benefit statistics. The benefit percentages are lower as a result of the part time workers reporting lesser benefits.

We raise these issues because you cannot think of yourself as just a dental hygienist. Before determining whether your hourly rate is fair, you have to consider all of the important factors such as the city you live in, the hygiene role you perform, the type of practice you work in, and the benefits you receive (which can add approximately $5-$15/hour to your wage). Similarly, dental offices weigh these factors before making a job offer or negotiating a raise for existing staff.

When we counsel dental professionals about a compensation package the most overlooked portion is benefits. There is a tendency to only focus on the hourly wage and there is a lack of education about how much the employer is spending on benefits. Colleagues like to discuss how much they are making per hour because it seems the most relevant. It may not be as exciting to say “I get one sick day per quarter and a 3% contribution to a 401k”. Our advice to both employees and employers is to make sure they have a full understanding of the total compensation package and shift the focus away from the hourly rate by itself.

If you want more in depth analysis or a conversation about your particular situation, please contact a placement consultant at Dental Connections.

DENTAL HYGIENIST SALARY AND BENEFITS SURVEY 2017-2018

RESPONDENTS: 610

74% Full Time Hygienists (3-5 days/wk):
26% Part Time Hygienists (1-2 days/wk):
94% Working in General Practice:
6% Working in Specialty Practice:

SALARY PER HOUR
WA State Average $45.84

• King County $47.30
• Pierce County $46.08
• Thurston/Mason County $45.32
• Kitsap County $47.30
• Snohomish County $46.19
• Skagit/Whatcom County $46.04
• Cowlitz/Clark County $39.65
• Coastal Counties $50.93
• Eastern Washington $42.74

YEARS OF EXPERIENCE
Overall Average 13.92 years
With Current Position 7.29 years

DUTIES PERFORMED
94% Recall/Continuing Care
46% Photography
97% Periodontal Procedures
7% Rubber Dam Placement
18% Restorative Procedures
21% Impressions
4% Temporaries
54% X-rays
89% Digital X-rays
83% Computer in Op
54% Sealants
11% Laser
94% Anesthesia
79% Nitrous Oxide Admin
72% Schedule Appointments
23% Business Office Duties

BENEFITS PROVIDED
Important note: part time and full time respondent results are combined which lowers the percentages of some categories. Part time employees generally have fewer benefits than full time employees.

55% Medical Insurance
74% Dental Insurance
9% Life Insurance
58% Retirement
43% Bonuses
76% Paid Vacation
71% Holidays
48% Sick or Well Leave
58% C/E Paid
50% Uniform Allowance


2017 Dental Connections Scholarship Award Recipient

We proudly announce that Seth Dunlap from Pima Medical Institute is our 2017 scholarship recipient. We had a lot of great applicants, but Seth really stood out. Prior to hygiene school he achieved a BA and MFA from Washington State University. He has been an active fund raising participant for his school and maintains a 4.0 GPA. Some of his fellow RDH colleagues may know him from attending Greater Seattle Dental Hygienists’ Society component meetings or from volunteering at Seattle King County Clinic. Seth has an extremely bright future in dentistry and we look forward to him graduating in June 2018. Congratulations Seth!


2015 Hygienist Salary Survey Results

Hygienist Salary Survey


June Temp RDH Jobs

RDH temp work available for rest of June:

Seattle 16, 17, 18, 23, 25
Lynnwood 15
Bothell 16, 17
Monroe 16, 18
Bellevue 15, 16
Issaquah 15
Burien 25
Renton 12, 16, 17, 18, 23, 27, 30
Kent 12, 15, 19, 20
Federal Way 11, 26
Tacoma 16, 20, 23, 24, 25, 26
Bremerton 25
Kingston 29, 30
Pt. Orchard 12, 15
Pt. Hadlock 19
Pt. Townsend 29, 30
Puyallup 11
Olympia 12, 16, 17, 18, 19, 24, 25, 26
Yelm 18, 22
Centralia 12

If you or any of your colleagues needs extra work on these dates please message ryan@dentalconnections.com. We offer a $100 referral bonus too!

Dental Connections is a dental employment agency offering temporary and permanent placement services for dentists, hygienists, dental assistants, and business staff. We are more than just a temp agency because all of the dental professionals we represent are screened with a personal interview. Half our business is dedicated to permanent placement. Our service area is all of Western Washington, with most jobs in the following cities: Everett, Lynnwood, Seattle, Bothell, Kirkland, Redmond, Bellevue, Mercer Island, Renton, Kent, Federal Way, Auburn, Puyallup, Tacoma, Gig Harbor, Bremerton, Olympia, and Centralia.