raise

No matter how much we love our jobs and our patients, our work is how we pay for our lives. So it’s inevitable that we want to feel we are paid fairly for the work we do. But, asking for a raise can often feel awkward and intimidating. We share some steps you can take – and tools you can use – to empower you to have a productive discussion with your dental employer.

Dental Professionals Were Productive in Asking For A Raise Last Year

In DentalPost’s 2023 annual dental salary survey, we asked respondents if they had asked for a raise in the last 12 months. Many dental hygienists, dental assistants, and front office team members reported they had taken self-initiative to ask for raises. For example, 40% of responding dental hygienists asked for a raise, and 66% were pleased with the results.

many achieved satisfaction by asking for a raise

The average incomes of clinical and administrative team members grew year-over-year. 

national average income

In the last year, the average income increase varied quite a bit across the different team positions, ranging from 1% for associate dentists to 14.5% for billing specialists in private practices. Coming out of the pandemic, dental practices were especially hard-pressed to fill open RDH and dental assistant positions. DSOs competed hard for dental hygienists and assistants, outpacing the pay given to their counterparts in private practices. However, this was offset in DSOs with only an average 1% increase for practice managers. 

2022 average pay increases by position

If you did not receive a raise or a satisfactory raise in 2022, it might be your turn to receive one in 2023. Take heart—the following eight tips will help you prepare to have an open and honest conversation with your employer.

1. Salary Discussions Are Not Taboo—You Can Initiate One

The old taboo about having a pay discussion with your employer is gone. More and more employees are taking initiative to start the conversation, and many employers respect a forthright conversation broached by an employee who knows what they need to stay engaged and not silently quit or change jobs. 

Studies show that one-on-one management and employee discussions about the employee’s financial needs and expectations lead to improved retention when the employer is sensitive and open. HR consultants strongly recommend dental employers conduct “stay interviews” during the labor shortage. It is currently my opinion that stay interviews should occur every six months.

It was a few years back, but I will always remember dental consultant Linda Miles saying, “The office comfortable discussing such a weighty issue will ultimately be a friendlier, more trusting work environment.”

2. Know How You Compare

First, do your homework to assess how your compensation stacks up against others in your position. For the latest dental salary information for your position, check out DentalPost’s 2023 Salary Report. Because compensation is typically tied to experience and the time worked in the practice, wait until you’ve been with a practice for longer than a year to ask for a raise.

If you have taken on a new responsibility that helps the practice’s bottom line, you are in a far better position to get a raise. Also, if someone left and you’ve assumed some of their duties, that could be justification for an increase.

3. Make Your Case

Identify your unique contributions to the practice. Do you routinely fill slots suddenly left by cancelations? Do patients sing your praises to the dentist or front office staff? Do they refer their friends to you and the practice? Some value measurements are tangible, and others are intangible, but they’re both important and demonstrate that you’re a real asset.

When discussing your value, it’s not the time to be modest or unnecessarily boastful. Just tell it like it is, straight down the middle. Your value will speak for itself once you articulate your accomplishments.

4. Consider the Big Picture

Make your discussion about salary part of a bigger conversation about your plan for the future. You’ll be much more successful if money isn’t the only topic. Outline concrete details about how you want to help achieve practice goals. Highlight areas where you give 120 percent (far exceeding expectations, not just meeting them). All these factors emphasize that you’re a high performer with a commitment to the future of the practice.

5. Time Your Ask

When asking for a raise, timing is everything. But how do you know when the right time is? Here are some ideas:

  • Set the stage BEFORE your scheduled review time. By then, any decisions have already been made. It’s best to ask 60 to 90 days before your review.
  • If you’ve just successfully finished a project or assignment or any “extra credit” responsibility, capitalize on that momentum.
  • Just because you think it’s the best time, your boss might not. Have you been with the practice for more than a year? Have you taken steps to bring real value to the practice (see the previous tip)? If you’re still a relative newbie who isn’t blowing people away with rock star performance, you still have some growing to do before asking the big question.

If you’ve considered all this and believe the time is right, don’t beg or give a litany of reasons you need a raise. Again, your daily work is a strong indicator of whether you have earned a raise. Don’t make a raise an ultimatum. If you threaten to quit if you don’t get a raise, your boss might call your bluff and tell you goodbye. Not only that, but the threat also jeopardizes trust and makes your boss think he should start looking for a replacement, just in case.

6. Stay Positive

Okay, what if you’ve figured out the best timing, mapped out a plan for the future, gathered your key achievements, and mustered up the courage to ask for that raise… and the boss says no? 

You need to be ready for that possible answer. A variety of factors could be behind that “no.” Maybe the dentist is trying to grow the practice because it is under-producing. Maybe the salary percentage is already high. Maybe the accountant for the practice has advised against raises for the moment.

If you are told no, don’t have a fit. You’ve just spent a whole conversation extolling your value to the practice. Don’t blow it in one moment of losing your composure. Instead, acknowledge that it might not be the best time to discuss this issue but ask whether three to six months might be a better time. That way, it is informally “on the calendar,” and you have a natural reason to return to the topic.

7. Identify Other Ways to Be Compensated

Beyond hourly wages and salaries are other valuable components of compensation. Many practices have awesome perks for their teams, such as group outings, training trips, goal-achievement bonuses, paid sick days, compassionate leave or parental leave, etc. If your boss has said that raises will be lean or non-existent for a while, be ready to negotiate. Have a list of some options that mean a lot to you. 

8. Be a Great Investment

Keeping positive about compensation will permeate to other parts of your job. Employees with an optimistic outlook–as opposed to those who constantly complain, especially about situations outside anyone’s immediate control, establish themselves as valuable team members any boss would see as a great investment… when the time is right.

Good luck! As always, we are rooting for your success.

Originally published September 11th, 2014. Updated January 2023.

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