U.S. Department of Health and Human Services
Indian Health Service: The Federal Health Program for American Indians and Alaska Natives
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Dentist and Dental Hygienist Careers

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About Career Paths

The Indian Health Service (IHS) is the U.S. Public Health Service (USPHS) agency responsible for addressing the health needs of over 1.9 million American Indians and Alaska Natives (AI/AN)  in over 230 hospitals and clinics in 35 states. More than 1,800 dentists, dental hygienists and dental assistants work in programs that strive to prevent as much dental disease as possible through organized prevention programs and limit existing disease through active clinical programs.

If you are an oral health professional or student in search of an exceptional career that will fulfill your sense of mission and desire for an adventurous lifestyle, welcome!

Your Career With IHS Begins Here

Your career with the Indian Health Service begins when you select a career path that best fits your training, priorities and lifestyle. IHS offers three employment paths - two federal options or working directly for a Tribe. Individuals who choose the federal career path may serve either as a Commissioned Corps Officer in the USPHS or as a Civil Service employee for the Indian Health Service. Those who choose to work directly for a Tribe will enter into an employment agreement with that Tribe. No matter which option you choose, you will experience an IHS career filled with opportunity, adventure and purpose.

Career Path Options (PDF - 32K)

This matrix will allow you to compare the Commissioned Corps and Civil Service options for working as an IHS dentist or registered dental hygienist. Direct Tribal Hire compensation and benefits are determined independently by the Tribe.

  Commissioned Corps Civil Service
US Citizenship Required Required
Minimum/Maximum Age Requirements Must be under age 44 at time of commission. None
Starting Rank
or Pay Grade
Pay grade/rank for a dentist starts at

Pay grade/rank for a hygienist starts at
O-2/Lieutenant Junior Grade.
$91,530 – 125,000 for entry-level dentists.  Entry level RDH, please call the contact at current vacancy.
Employment Commitment Minimum of two  years of service with IHS.
Dentists: four years with signing bonus.
Medical Physical Required None
Dental Licensure/Education Requirement DDS or DMD, and valid licensure from any US State or federal territory. DDS or DMD, and valid licensure from any US State or federal territory.
Dental Hygienist Licensure Bachelor’s degree and valid licensure from any
US State or Federal territory.
Fully accredited RDH training and valid licensure from any US State or federal territory.
Non-Taxable Income
  1. Housing Allowance
  2. Subsistence Allowance
  3. COLA (AK)
Health Benefits Officers:
Care at any uniformed service military treatment facility and other resources.

Medical care through TRICARE
Choice of medical and dental plans, from fee-for-service plans to prepaid HMOs.  More information at www.opm.gov.
Paid Annual Leave 30 days Number of
days per year:

0 - 3 Years: 13
4 - 15 Years: 20
16+ Years: 26
Paid Sick Leave As needed Four hours accrued
per pay period.
Life Insurance Service Members’ Group Life Insurance (SGLI) Federal Employees’ Group Life Insurance program (FEGLI)
Retirement Retirement eligible after 20 years of service  See www.opm.gov
Paid Moving Expenses Available for initial assignment, transfer, separation and retirement. Available for initial assignment and transfer.
Bonuses Available Negotiable
IHS Loan Repayment Program* Available Available


*Civil Service, Commissioned Corps, and Tribal Hire are all eligible to apply for the IHS LRP.

Note:  Direct Tribal Hire compensation and benefits are determined independently by the Tribe.

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