Dental Salary

What do dentists earn?

The income of a dentist varies widely, depending upon the area in which the dentist is practicing. A small town dentist might make a more modest income compared to a dentist located in a metropolitan city. That said, the American Dental Association Health Policy Institute reported that the average net income for all dentists, include generalists and specialists, was $199,840, as of 2013.

What does it take to establish an independent dental practice?

An independent practice is usually established one of two ways: Either by starting from the ground up, or by acquiring a practice from a dentist entering retirement. Acquiring an established practice is much like purchasing any other business in that equipment, client base, and location are all acquired through the purchase. There are Professional Transition Service companies that handle the logistics and legalities making the process more manageable, much like using a real estate agent to purchase a home.

Establishing an independent practice either through acquisition or independent start-up is usually a costly endeavor that will require a loan. There are lending institutions that specialize in financing new dental practice start-ups and acquisitions. Start-up costs, of course, will vary widely depending on the size of the clinic, the location, and how it's equipped. Once established, practice expenses can be high. As of 2013, they reached $404,030 for all dentists, including general practitioners and specialists, according to the American Dental Association Health Policy Institute.

What are some benefits to having your own independent dental practice?

Operating an independent dental practice requires all the responsibility and commitment of an independent business. It involves managing staff, budgeting, and all the other logistics involved in running a dentist office. It also has the same unique benefits. An independent dental practitioner is essentially able to choose his work and set his own schedule.

Learn more about dental job fields.

A dentist may choose to practice independent of a partnership so as to maintain his own very high standard of practice. In an independent practice, there is no profit to share. After staffing and overhead is paid, the remaining income is netted.

The American Dental Association Health Policy Institute reports that of all dentists, including general practitioners and specialists, those who owned their own business had a net income of $213,090. This was significantly higher than all dentists who were employed by others: their average net income was $138,330.

As well, dental specialists can earn even more than general practitioners. Dental specialists had an average net income of $302,500 compared to general practitioners at $192,400, as of 2013, reports the American Dental Association Health Policy Institute. This difference in net income may be the result of specialists performing more expensive and sophisticated procedures.

How is a career in dentistry personally rewarding?

Beyond making a good living and having the freedom in many cases to be able to set their own schedule, dentists will often describe their profession as one that can bring a deep feeling of personal satisfaction through pride in work. Dentists consider their profession a healing art. To work in conjunction with the body's natural healing process to create a healthy homeostasis, restore function to the teeth, and eliminate pain for their patients can bring a tremendous feeling of accomplishment. On average, general dentists worked 1,704 hours in 2013 compared to specialists, who logged an average 1,699 in 2013. This is very close to the 1,700 hours the average American works per week, shows Business Insider.

In fact, as of 2015, dentistry ranked as the top occupation in U.S. News & World Report's list of best occupations. This was ranked for comfortable salary, low unemployment rate and a good work-life balance. As well, it tops the list of the best health care occupations. According to Dr. Richard W. Valachovic, president and chief executive officer of the American Dental Education Association, today's students want it all. "And dentistry really does deliver that," he said on a Dental News web page on the ADA website. "What other profession allows you to care for patients, make a good living, work as part of a team and have flexibility?"

What is the job market like for a dentist?

Since social norms have changed such that people are expected to maintain healthy teeth and an attractive smile, dentists find themselves in greater demand than ever before. This increased demand for the services of dentists and dental specialists has also been helped by the increased availability of comprehensive dental insurance through work place medical programs offered by many employers. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports that dentist jobs are expected to grow by 16 percent from 2012 to 2022, job growth that is considered faster than average.


  1. Check Out How Much The Average American Works Each Year Compared To The French, The Germans, And The Koreans, Business Insider. Aug. 7, 2013. http://www.businessinsider.com/average-annual-hours-worked-for-americans-vs-the-rest-of-the-world-2013-8
  2. Dental Practice, American Dental Association Health Policy Institute. http://www.ada.org/en/science-research/health-policy-institute/data-center/dental-practice
  3. Dental News, American Dental Association. http://www.ada.org/en/publications/ada-news/2015-archive/january/dentist-1-occupation
  4. Dentists, Bureau of Labor Statistics, Occupational Outlook Handbook. http://www.bls.gov/ooh/healthcare/dentists.htm#tab-6

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