What is a Dentist

Dentist (also known as Family Dentist and Dental Surgeon) is a health care professional who provides diagnosis, treatment and preventative care for a patient’s teeth and mouth. Dentists can also refer patients to other dentists, such as orthodontists, for more specialized dental procedures. Read more about Dentist Job Description.

Where do Dentist Work

Majority of dentists work in dental offices or clinics, either at their own businesses, partnered with other dentists, or they may work under more established dentists. You may find a small percentage of dentists working in research laboratories, large corporations, government services, and the military. Wherever they work, dentist are expected to wear masks, gloves and other protective equipment to ensure the safety of their patients and themselves from the transmission of infectious diseases.

Work Schedule

Dentists usually work full time during regular weekday hours, but it often depends largely on the clinics’ hours of operation. Weekday evenings is not uncommon especially if there is only one dentist working in the clinic. However, some offices may choose to open on weekends too, but those offices tend to have more than one dentist working at a time. Due to increase level of competition in large cities, dental clinics in these areas have to open for longer hours and almost always open on weekends as well. While in smaller towns, dentists have more of a say in determining their own work schedule as the demand for their profession clearly exceeds the supply.

Mean Annual Dentist Salary

In the United States, the average annual dentist salary is $164,570. This total is easily computed by adding the salaries of all of the dentists and then dividing by the number of dentists employed. There is a large gap between the highest earning dental professionals and those with the lowest mean annual wages. Those in the bottom 10% can expect to earn less than $72,240 each year whereas dentists in the top 10% have salaries that begin at $220,000 and escalate from there.

Dentist Salary: Quick Summary

2013 Mean Salary$164,570 per year
$79.12 per hour
Top 10% Salary220,000 per year
$105.77 per hour
Bottom 10% Salary$72,240 per year
$34.73 per hour
Number of Jobs, 201396,000

Job Outlook

Although job growth for dentists between 2012 and 2022 is low compared to some other healthcare professions, the projected 16% increase in positions is still faster than average. This can result in almost 20,600 new positions created by 2022. Additionally, the mean annual wage for dentists has increased by almost $20,000 in the past two years alone, holding great promise for the future.

The slower growth rate is likely due to the educational requirements for the profession, especially due to economic considerations that are becoming increasingly influential in terms of the attainability higher education. This is extremely relevant for dental students because they must first earn a bachelor’s degree in order to be admitted into dental school where they will spend an additional 4 years training.

Dentist Salary Factors and Influences

Becoming a dentist is a great career choice. For some people, becoming a dentist means that they get to provide people with dental care that will provide them with a healthier and more stable life. After all, your teeth and gums are vital for overall health, so it’s important that people get the attention that they need. And luckily, there are some dentists out there who simply want to give back and help others who need dental care.

However, another reason that people decide to get into dentistry is because it’s a job that is known for paying quite well. Just how well does it pay? Well, that will depend on how hard the dentist is willing to work, what their experience is, and how much they owe in expenses each year as well. However, it’s estimated that general dentists can make upwards of $160,000 a year or more, based on a variety of factors. Factors such as experience, attitude,  industry, and location will determine how much a dentist can make each year.


Historically, there is a correlation between fluctuations of economic conditons and a dentist’s income. Since the economic downturn in 2009, average dentist salary have been declining due to a decrease number of visits to dental offices. Reasons for this maybe contributed from a decrease in number of people covered by private insurance and financial hardship affecting a vast number of Americans. Over 90% of American dental expenditures comes out of an individual’s own pockets or through private insurance. Hence if people have less money in their bank or get cut from their dental insurance, spending their savings on dental care isn’t at the top of the list.

Experience and Education

One of the most important parts of getting your foot in the door as a dentist is going to be the experience that you have. Because many dentists know that they need to have a website online, part of their website will include having their credentials listed so that their potential customers can see them. This is why the dentist needs to come from a reputable dental school and show that they have experience working with patients.

While some dentists may be able to get patients based off of how gentle and kind they are, the truth of the matter is that most people are going to first look at experience and credentials to decide if they want to work with them. This could mean making more or less money each year.

More experienced dentists also tend to own their own practices. This means that while individuals just entering the field may earn less and be employed under other individuals, those with more experience can open their own offices and make significantly more money. A figure of $200,000 annually is not uncommon among dentists who are self employed.

All dentists are registered and licensed before their enter practice. However, some dentists may pursue further education such as orthodontics and oral surgery. These specialized dentists are often rewarded with a substantial increase in salary.


Another big factor that goes into a dentists yearly wages is the services that they offer. If a dentist only does simply cleaning and checkups, they won’t make nearly as much as a cosmetic dentist who specializes in veneers, dental crowns and caps, or even braces. The more extensive that a dental procedure is, the more that the patient will have to pay to get the treatment. That means that the dentist will make more money with each one of these treatments that they perform.


If you want to make the big money, then you have to be willing to put in the long hours. Dentists who make the most money are the ones that are willing to work five, or even six, days a week. They’ll also work very long hours each of those days, fitting in as many clients as they can each day. While it’s often assumed that being a dentist means that they can take time off when they want and go play a round of golf, the truth is that the dentists who make the most are the ones that are willing to put in as much time as possible.


The amount of clients that a dentist has will also play a big role as to how much money they can make each year. In this case, the more clients that a dentist has, the better off they will be. Dentists who have clients continually coming in and out of their office will notice that they make much more money each year than those who have a hard time filling their appointment book with regular patients.

Socioeconomic conditions are also going to have a big impact on the amount of money that a dentist makes each year. For example, someone who lives in an upper-class neighborhood is going to be able to charge more for their services than a dentist who is working in a neighborhood with lower-income families. In addition, those who have more expendable income are going to be willing to pay for more routine dental treatments, while lower-income families may visit the dentist only once a year for checkups.


Unlike virtually all other professions, the most concentrated industry for dentists is also the top paying industry. Working in a dental office results in a mean annual wage of $166,280 or more. This is because most dentists in an office either own the practice or are working as associates within the practice. The ability to do this comes with experience; however, dentists can also work under other physicians and in the offices of other health practitioners and still make a significant amount of money in comparison to other industries.


States with the lowest concentration of dentists are those that pay the most, including New Hampshire, Vermont, and Delaware. All of these states employ 400 or less dentists, meaning that these individuals are in significantly higher demand, which also results in higher pay.

Relatedly, metropolitan areas that employ the lowest number of dentists are also those that pay the most. This same trend holds true for nonmetropolitan areas as well, as almost all of those that pay the highest annual wages are the states that employ 100 dentists or less, all of whom earn at least $228,000 each year.