How Much Do Temp RDHs Make a Year?

dental hygienist polishing patient's teeth

Is a dental hygienist temp salary more, less, or the same as a regular dental hygienist job? Well, depending on where you live and which placement agency you’re using, it can vary.

Some temp agencies offer the same or a little lower than a traditional hygiene salary. Others are as much as $10-15 an hour more than what you’re used to getting paid.

Keep in mind that in most cases as a temping RDH, salary is negotiable. Especially now that there’s a nationwide shortage of hygienists. If you work with a placement app to find RDH jobs, you can usually set your own salary. Whereas a brick-and-mortar temping agency will pay you a flat rate of their choosing, which is usually the same for everyone. The dentist then pays a slightly higher amount than that, which the temp agency uses for operational purposes and to turn a profit.

Temp RDH Salary 

According to online job placement websites, the national average temping RDH salary is just over $90,000 annually, or about $45 an hour. Keep in mind, pay in certain geographical areas is going to be higher than in others. In fact, some are as high as $124,000 a year!

A traditional temp agency—like the brick and mortar ones in your area—usually pay average private practice salaries minus a few bucks. So, depending on where you live, that might be anywhere from $23 to $40 an hour. The national average pay is about $41 an hour for private practice hygiene, so a temp job may be closer to $35 an hour for the same position.[1]

If you want more control over your dental hygienist temp salary, the best thing to do is either use a placement app/tool or go with a travel RDH agency. Online temping apps usually allow you to select your hourly rate and geographical area. Since you have a visible profile, dentists who need temp hygienists can browse through available temps in their area and decide who to hire. The higher demand and better profile you have, the more you’re typically able to charge for your temping RDH salary.

All of that being said, travel RDH jobs also offer top pay. Plus, some of them even offer free corporate housing along with the competitive hourly reimbursement rate, which is like making thousands of dollars more per year when you think about it.

Top-Paying Cities For Travel RDH

As a traveling, temping RDH, salary options can fluctuate depending on where you choose to work. If you’re open to Airbnb-style housing, you’ll also want to keep those costs in mind as they relate to your normal housing budget. But some temp agencies actually pay for private corporate housing, completely eliminating that cost so that you’re keeping MORE of your hard-earned money.

CityAnnual SalaryMonthly PayWeekly PayHourly Pay
New York City, NY $109,967$9,164 $2,115$52.87
San Mateo, CA $107,761  $8,980$2,072 $51.81
Juneau, AK $104,828  $8,736$2,016 $50.40
Boston, MA  $104,758$8,730 $2,015 $50.36
Berkeley, CA  $103,649$8,637  $1,993$49.83
Santa Monica, CA   $103,503$8,625 $1,990$49.76
Daly City, CA $103,356 $8,613  $1,988$49.69
Quincy, MA $103,238 $8,603  $1,985$49.63
Renton, WA $103,059 $8,588 $1,982 $49.55
Minneapolis, MN $101,687 $8,474 $1,956 $48.89

So, which cities and states pay the most for temping hygienists? Several along the Pacific coastline: Alaska, California, Washington, Oregon…and then on the other side of the U.S., in Washington DC. Alaska is way higher than the rest, with an average hourly pay of right at $55. If you’re open to traveling the country or getting a license in other states, you can really rake in some big bucks, especially if you’re coming from one of the lower-paying RDH states, like Alabama, Mississippi, or West Virginia.

What’s The Actual Take-Home Pay? 

Since temping as an RDH can pay more per hour than a traditional hygiene job, are you always taking home more money at the end of the year (Or month? Or week?) Not necessarily.

As a temping hygienist, you can only work when someone needs you to fill in for them. If your temp “gig” is for someone that’s sick, it might only be a day or two. Maternity leave? Maybe a couple of months. In other words, there’s a high chance that you’ll have a lot of downtime between temping jobs.

However, there are exceptions to the rule. Such as travel RDH temps, who usually take long-term assignments up to six months at a time, depending on the agreement. In those cases, you don’t have to worry as often about when you’re getting paid or how much you’re making.

There are also other significant factors that can impact your total dental hygienist temp salary. Such as:

1) Shift Length 

Thinking about switching to a 4-day workweek? Want to pick up some hours on a Saturday to start saving up for a vacation, birthday, or the holidays? When you work can also impact how much you get paid. Especially if it falls outside of the traditional M-F 8-5 workday. You’ll typically get a higher reimbursement rate if you don’t mind working weekends or evenings, which are usually in high demand when it comes to appointment times.

Although some temp jobs may allow you to work a half-day, you’re probably not going to find many openings with a shorter than 8-hour shift. This can make it harder to find a job and eat into how much money you’re taking home.

2) Type Of Office 

Some dental offices pay more than others. Especially if it’s a specialty practice, like perio. Or even if you’re doing “super hygiene” in a pediatric practice, where an assistant is flipping chairs for you, taking X-rays, doing your charting and OHI, and all you’re doing is scaling teeth. Assisted hygiene and corporate practice hygiene jobs typically get paid more than traditional RDH positions. Some corporate practices even offer sign-on bonuses of $5,000-$10,000.

3) State 

Dental hygiene salaries vary from state to state and across the country. If you’re able to temp across state lines because you have licenses in each of them, you can use this to your advantage. Or if you know you want to spend the summer in Alaska and have access to cheap housing, you can make as much there in 3 months as you would 6 somewhere else. In states where dental assistants have expanded duties, hygienists aren’t as in demand and usually don’t make as much money. Check out my list of dental hygiene salaries in each state to compare rates and see how you can earn the most.

4) Cost Of Living 

Dental hygienists typically get paid more in areas where the cost of living is higher. You’re just going to make more in California than you are in Alabama, because of housing costs. But as a travel RDH, you have a chance to bypass the added cost of living to keep more money in your pocket at the end of the day.

For example, your travel hygiene agency may provide free, corporate housing. That means zero rent out of your pocket. Or maybe you have an RV and prefer to stay in a campground or state park because you like the outdoors, so you save money instead of renting an Airbnb.

If you don’t mind the drive, you might consider temping an hour away in an area where the cost of living is higher, because you make up for it in the hourly pay. This option is especially good if you have access to mass transit systems.

5) Taxes 

One of the biggest misconceptions about dental temping jobs is that you’re a contracted, 1099 employee. In reality, that’s not legal to do. If you WERE a contracted 1099 employee, you would have to cover your own employment taxes and have to make quarterly payments to the IRS. But as a temp hygienist, you’re usually the “employee” of the agency or app that you’re being paired through, so they help manage all of the taxes and earnings for you.

As a travel temp hygienist, remember that some states also charge a state income tax. If you’re from a state like Texas, where there are no state income taxes, and you’re traveling to Arkansas for a few months to work, that’s extra money out of pocket that you’re going to be able to take home.

How Much Do Temp Dental Hygienists Make? 

As a temping RDH, salary can fluctuate by as much as $25/hr. depending on where you live. A dental hygienist temp salary may be fixed if you’re using a local placement agency. But if you use a dental temping app, you may be able to select your hourly rate. Better yet, you might want to consider working as a traveling dental hygienist to tap into new opportunities as well as a competitive pay scale. Depending on your circumstances, the highest dental hygiene earners can make up to $124,000 a year, and that’s not including any bonuses!