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2020 Hygienist Scholarship Award Recipient

We have awarded a scholarship to Lupita Ramirez-Kim. Lupita currently attends Pima and is graduating in spring 2021. She has been a dental assistant since she was 18 and attending hygiene school has been a lifelong goal. Lupita has managed to be an exemplary student respected by her peers and instructors all while raising 3 young children. Anyone who has completed hygiene school can attest to how rigorous and challenging it is even if you do not have children. We are so proud to give this award to her and look forward to seeing her thrive as a dental hygienist. Congratulations Lupita!

Temp of the Year Awards

There are three little words that are the secret to success in our profession. They embody the difference between an average dental professional and an exceptional one. The words are “and then some”.

Exceptional dental professionals in any practice do what is expected…and then some. They are thoughtful and supportive of others; they are considerate and kind…and then some. They can be counted on in emergencies…and then some.

Dental Connections is thankful for people like China Kesterson, Amy McLamore, and Vanessa Manolopoulos (RDHs), Ally Jenkins, Lori Johnson Dillard, and Tina Ta (RDAs). Their dedication, professionalism, and service have earned them our Temp of the Year Awards for 2020.

A sincere thank you to ALL of the temps that have worked for us this year. We appreciate you very much.

Working Abroad as a Dental Hygienist

I was excited to start my career and simultaneously pursue my passion for travel. I decided to work as a temp for Dental Connections full time for the flexibility to travel every few months. I would work all around the Seattle area, gaining knew knowledge and experience working in different demographic areas. Every few months I would take off and go backpacking for as long as my budget would allow before coming back and repeating the process. A little over a year later, I decided I wanted to move to central Europe to hopefully work and travel on a more balanced schedule. My search for Dental Hygiene abroad was a challenge. The first time I expressed interest in working internationally as a Hygienist was in school and lead to a couple of dead ends. Online, my research came up with outdated information or volunteer opportunities only. Using networking skills I finally met a Hygienist who worked in Switzerland in the 80’s. She said she no longer had a contact for me abroad but suggested asking on a Dental Hygiene Facebook page. That very same day I posted on Facebook and thankfully got a message from an RDH working in Germany. Three weeks later I was on a plane with two suitcases and my cat, Alfred. I had never visited Germany before and did not know a single person living there. My passion for travel and my support at home gave me the courage to take the leap blindly. I never spoke on the phone or had a video call with the office, all communication was via email. It was quite the risk. It was also the best decision I have ever made.

Once I arrived in Germany I had ninety days to obtain a work visa and residence permit. On top of the paperwork for the immigration office, I also had to find a place to live, a phone, a bank, a car, insurance, taxes etc. There is so much that goes into moving to another country besides obtaining residency there. In Germany and multiple other countries Dental Hygiene is not a recognized profession, meaning there are no accreditation standards or programs. This allows Hygienists licensed in the United States to obtain work in these countries as long as their license stays active in the U.S. In Germany specifically, there is a large U.S. military community who have family members needing care. This helps with the language barrier. I did not know any German upon arrival. Depending on where you are working and your patient demographic, you may need to take German classes to become fluent once you arrive.

Working in Germany and other countries who have not previously focused on preventative care can be extremely rewarding. Immersing yourself in a new culture will forever change you. I know hygienists who have moved to Germany with their children, spouses and animals. I met the love of my life in Germany and married him there. During my time abroad I travelled to 32 new countries and made a lifetime of memories. Living in Europe taught me to slow down and to focus on health.

Were you aware of the possibility to work as a Dental Hygienist abroad? If barriers such as seeking employment or finding relocation resources are provided for you, would that be the assistance you need to take the leap? If you have a passion for travel along with Hygiene and living abroad is something you’re interested in, please let Dental Connections know. Maybe we can help.

Casey Thornton RDH in Germany

Interviews in the Post-Pandemic World?

A strange day at Dental Connections in our Seattle office. Moving some desks and equipment home since the entire team now works remotely. We started this office from scratch in 2007 with no clients. Through hard work and determination, this little office grew and grew to be very successful. Many of you have visited us at this location on Lake Union. We were doing Zoom interviews already before the pandemic made them cool. They work well and are highly efficient, but nothing replaces a face to face meeting to build real relationships. If you are reading this post we have a question for you. When all this madness is behind us will you ever want to do meetings with colleagues again face to face? We certainly hope so. This office is not closing for good it is just temporarily shuddered. Hopefully personal touch and in person relationships are still valued in the post pandemic world.

Empty reception area in our Seattle office.

2020 RDH Salary Survey

Dental Connections and the Washington Dental Hygienists’ Association (WDHA) have partnered since 2008 to produce accurate, comprehensive, and current statistics about dental hygienist wages and benefits in dental offices. The answers to this survey are completely anonymous and reflect a large sample set of workers providing the most up to date and accurate statistics available anywhere. Dental Connections and the WDHA have zero influence over the respondent’s answers and do not use this information for profit.

Before reading the results, we want to point out some key observations and historical trends:

• This survey combines ALL types of hygienists: traditional, restorative, part time, full time, experienced, new grads, etc. Restorative RDHs make more than traditional RDHs. Full time workers receive better benefits than part time workers. Take this into account while analyzing the statistics.

• By most measures the greater Seattle area is in its 5th year of an extreme shortage of RDHs. The Covid-19 pandemic has exacerbated this problem due to large cohorts of workers not returning to their jobs yet and current workers seeking hazard pay compensation. This has driven wages up even more dramatically due to basic supply and demand principles.

• Historically, experienced professionals that have spent more time in a single practice are compensated higher for loyalty. This trend is changing because of the shortage. North King County currently has a $54/hour average, but recent job offers in 2019-2020 have been above that average due to the market factors discussed above.

• 18% 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.

Before determining whether an hourly rate is fair, consider all important factors: location, hygiene role performed, experience level, type of practice, and benefits (which can add approximately $5-$15/hour to the compensation package). 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 discuss how much they are making per hour because it seems the most relevant. It may not be as exciting to say “I get 3 weeks of paid vacation 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. Lastly, being treated fairly and being happy at a job is always worth more than a couple dollars an hour.

Download PDF version of the results below. Please contact if you have any questions or comments.

Please Join WDHA

What do YOU want?

Stay Current? Research, public policies, and other issues that may affect your professional life?

Save Money? Free/low cost resources: insurance, travel, scholarships & awards and much more!

More, New Friends? Ones who really understand what you are going through in your professional life!

How can you do all 3 for very little financial obligation? Join Washington Dental Hygienists’ Association!

Membership in the Association provides three (3) levels of support to professionals: National, State, and Local at very little cost. Dues are prorated based on when you join. (See

NATIONAL: American Dental Hygienists Association, “is advocating for the profession at the highest levels to make sure our interests are represented in legislation and public policy”. The website is your portal to many useful resources which are included in your membership.

STATE:  Washington Dental Hygienists’ Association: “State chapters connect you with education, advocacy and licensure details to keep you current and compliant”. The WDHA website is your resource for what is happening in Olympia and connects you with Association leadership.

LOCAL: Local components “in your community support you with actions and activities that make a difference for patients and the practice right where you live”. You can select your component based on where you live, work or whereever else you might want to be, in the state next door or across the country. 

We can’t wait to meet you! Join Now!

We are looking forward to helping you get involved in things that can make a big difference in your professional life!

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Please Participate in the 2020 RDH Salary Survey

Please take the 2020 RDH Salary Survey. We offer this survey annually in conjunction with the WSDHA. Once we gather enough responses results will be available hopefully in 4-6 weeks. Please click the link below. Takes 1-2 minutes 👍💰

Volunteering at Seattle King County Clinic

The annual free Seattle King County Clinic was a huge success. Ryan Downing, Sara Downing, Tammy Smith, Alicia Jardine, and Valerie Jean all participated in sterilization for the dental unit. It was amazing to see our local dental community come together for this 4 day event.

Lots of hygiene and restorative happening all at once
Alicia Jardine and Tammy Smith
Sara Downing RN and Ryan Downing
Valerie Stewart and Alicia Jardine

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 of 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 We are happy to answer any of your questions.


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%

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

Overall Average 11.65 years
With Current Position 5.26 years

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

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

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.