Average Dentist Salaries: By State, Top Paying Cities, Specialties, and More

Average Dentist Salaries: By State, Top Paying Cities, Specialties, and More
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Average Dentist Salaries: By State, Top Paying Cities, Specialties, and MoreClinical Content Reviewed by Dr. Jay Khorsandi, DDS
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Table of Contents

  1. Intro
  2. Average Salary By State
  3. Cities With Highest Salaries
  4. Average Salary by Specialty
  5. Related Job Salaries
  6. Job Availability
  7. Education & Training
  8. Frequently Asked Questions
  9. References

The average general dentist in America earns $180,830, with the highest-paid dentists coming rom Rhode Island and the lowest-paid ones living in West Virginia.

Overall, a career as a dentist ranks No. 11 among highest-paying U.S. jobs. Speciality dentists, such as a dental anesthesiologist, earn more than general dentists.

Intro

A career in dentistry is rewarding, but it doesn’t come easily. It requires many years of training, and at a considerable cost. That said, a career as a dentist ranks No. 11 among best-paying jobs, and 47th among the 100 jobs.     

Reports by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics show that the average wage of a general dentist in 2020 was $180,830. In the same year, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics estimated the average salary from all occupations to be $56,310. This means that a general dentist in the U.S makes over three times the average wage of a U.S. worker.

Like any career, not all dentists earn the same amount. The top 25 percent dentists earn $208,000, while the lowest 25 percent earn $115,290. The median annual salary of a dentist was $158,940. 

The actual amount a dentist makes varies depending on many factors. These factors include the state, city, employer, education, and experience. Below is a detailed report of how dentists earn based on those factors.

Average Dentist Salary by State

Average compensation for dentists varies in the United States from state to state. Region of the country, cost of living and demand for dental services all impact salary levels.

The three states with the highest-paid dentists are Rhode Island ($258,920), Vermont ($254,190) and Alaska ($242,850). 

West Virginia is last at $127,950 just ahead of Kentucky ($128,850). The margin between the highest and lowest average salaries is $130,970, a 50.5-percent difference.

StateAverage Annual Salary
Rhode Island$258,920
Vermont$254,190
Alaska$242,850
Maine$236,060
New Hampshire$222,430
Connecticut$221,440
Oregon$215,750
Minnesota$213,310
Michigan$213,250
Idaho$206,360
Massachusetts$205,160
North Dakota$203,890
Nevada$203,450
Hawaii$202,890
Wisconsin$200,640
Arizona$199,660
Illinois$198,480
Ohio$196,920
Virginia$196,890
South Dakota$187,850
Washington$187,520
Colorado$184,550
Texas$184,410
Oklahoma$182,190
Florida$180,920
Maryland$180,600
Delaware$179,777
North Carolina$178,980
Nebraska$178,490
New Jersey$177,570
Georgia$175,880
Alabama$172,050
Montana$171,950
Indiana$171,730
Kansas$170,710
New York$170,350
Iowa$169,990
Mississippi$168,250
Tennessee$167,460
New Mexico$166,910
Arkansas$163,260
California$160,300
South Carolina$159,810
Missouri$157,030
Pennsylvania$155,360
Utah$147,730
Louisiana$145,980
Wyoming$133,750
Kentucky$128,850
West Virginia$127,950

Cities With the Highest-Paid Dentists

With an average salary of $286,540, Dover-Durham, New Hampshire, had the highest-paid dentists in 2020. It was followed by North Port-Sarasota-Bradenton, Florida, at $278,790. And Portland-South, Maine, was No. 3 at $278,390.  

Below are the top 15 cities and metropolitan areas with the highest-paid dentist sorted in descending order.

CityAverage Annual Salary
Dover-Durham, NH$286,540
North Port-Sarasota-Bradenton, FL$278,790
Portland-South Portland, ME$278,390
Gainesville, GA$271,580
Burlington-South Burlington, VT$266,760
Rapid City, SD$262,070
Longview, TX$251,760
New Haven, CT$250,430
Bridgeport-Stamford-Norwalk, CT$250,410
Worcester, MA-CT$250,000
Providence-Warwick, RI-MA$249,970
Peoria, IL$246,360
Flint, MI$245,540
Madison, WI$245,200
Lansing-East Lansing, MI$245,110

Average Dentist Salary by Specialty

With the proper training and certifications, a dentist can choose to practice in one or more of the 12 approved dental specialties. Depending on the difficulty of each specialization and the duration of studies, salaries will vary.

Dental anesthesiology is the highest-paying specialty, followed orthodontics and dentofacial orthopedics. Periodontics was the lowest-compensated specialty.

Some of the main specialties and the estimated average annual compensation:

Dental SpecialtyAverage Annual Salary
Dental Anesthesiology$278,460
Orthodontics and Dentofacial Orthopedics$237,990
Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery$234,990
Prosthodontics$214,870
Endodontics$194,930
Oral and Maxillofacial Radiology$194,930
Pediatric Dentistry$194,930
Public Health Dentistry$194,930
Oral and Maxillofacial Pathology$171,040
Periodontics$164,010
The average salary for the above dental specialties is $208,108, which is 15 percent higher than that of a general dentist.
Dental Assistant
The work of a dental assistant is to provide support to the dentist. Some of the tasks of a dental assistant include preparing the patient for dental work, caring for the patient, helping with x-rays, maintaining patient records and appointments, among others.
Dental Hygienist
A dental hygienist is a different job description from that of a dentist, but can do more than a dental assistant. They can work independently to provide oral health to patients. The work of a dental hygienist includes preventive care, taking x-rays, screening patients, dental cleaning, among others.
Dental Lab Tech
A technician receives instructions from a dentist to mold impressions of a patient’s teeth. This job involves making crowns, bridges, dentures, among other implements, that a dentist uses on the patient.
Dental Sales Rep
This person is in charge of promoting the products and services of a dentist. The sales rep helps the dentist enlarge networks, provide customer support, and make orders.
Dental Front Office Manager
A dentist is usually busy and preoccupied with work most of the time. So a front office manager helps to handle all office work. Roles in this job group may include scheduling appointments, supervising staff, managing insurance claims, dealing with finance, among other things.
Because these jobs don’t require years of training, accreditation or ongoing education, they are not compensated at the same high level as a dentist is. Here is what you can expect to earn in each position:
JobAverage Annual Salary
Dental Assistants$42,310
Dental Front Office Manager$50,339
Dental Hygienist$78,050
Dental Receptionist$31,759
Dental Laboratory technician$45,230
Dental Sales Rep$40,695
Prosthodontists$214,870
Oral and maxillofacial surgeon$234,990

Job Availability

In the United States, the demand for dentists is expected to grow by 8 percent from 2020 to 2030. This rate is almost the same as that of all occupations. 

During that decade, the projected average number of new openings for dentists is 5,000 per year. Most of these openings will replace those who leave the field because of retirement or a career change. 

There is considerable demand for health professionals such as doctors and nurses. People will also need dentists to achieve overall health. A career in dentistry is somewhat viewed as less competitive, considering the high cost of education and the length of training.

According to the ADA, the ratio of dentists to the U.S population is 60 to 100,000. But this ratio is relatively higher in some areas. About 59 million Americans live in areas with a shortage of dentists.  

As the average age of the U.S. population continues to increase, labor professionals expect that dentists will have more work in the future. Also, research shows that Americans are taking their oral health more seriously than they used to, and expectations are that more will visit the dentist consistently.

Not surprisingly, they expect the demand for complicated dental work such as reconstruction, bridges, implants and cosmetics to increase over time.

Education and Training Required

Becoming a dentist requires you to study for about eight years. You’ll spend the first four years studying for an undergraduate degree, preferably with a science major. Then, you’ll have to take a Dental Admission Test (DAT) before going to dental school. 

If you pass the test, you’ll join a dental school, where you’ll take four more years studying for Doctor of Dental Surgery (DDS) or Doctor of Dental Medicine (DMD). Then, you’ll be required to take and pass the National Board Dental Examination during your studies. After graduation, you may have to go through a general dentist residency program, depending on your state policies. 

This program will help you gain experience and confidence in the field. You’ll be working on patients under the supervision of a licensed dentist. After that, you can apply for your initial general dentist license. To get this license, you’ll have to pass a clinical examination according to your state requirements. Each state has a state board of dentistry that issues licenses to dentists.

After getting your initial license, you can work as a general dentist or specialize in a specific dentistry area. According to the ADA, there are 12 recognized areas of specialization. You can specialize in one or more of these areas through further studies. Then you’ll get an additional license for the completed specialty.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the highest-paid dentist paid?
The highest-paid dentist is a Dental Anesthesiologist whose annual average salary is $278,460. This specialist is responsible for administering and monitoring anesthesia for pain-free dental surgery.
What is the average salary of a dentist?
According to the U.S Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average wage of a general dentist in 2020 was $180,830. The top 25 percent of dentists earned $208,000, while the lowest 25% earned $115,290. The median annual salary was $158,940.

References

Dentist Overview. U.S. News. 2021. 

Occupational Employment and Wage Statistics. U.S. Bureau of Statistics. March 2021.

How Much Does a Dentist Make. U.S. News. 2021. 

Specialty Definition. National Commission on Recognition of Dental Specialties and Certifying Boards.  

Occupational Outlook Handbook. U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. September 2021. 

Demand for Dentists: Forecasting the Future of the Profession. July 2020.  

How to Become a Dentist? U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. September 2021. 

Licensure for Dental Students. American Dental Association.

Disclaimer: This article is intended to promote understanding of and knowledge about general oral health topics. It is not intended to serve as dental or other professional health advice and is not intended to be used for diagnosis or treatment of any condition or symptom. You should consult a dentist or other qualified healthcare provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition or treatment.

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