Dentist Salary – An Overall Review of the Field

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Dentist Salary: An Overall Review of the Field

Why is the matter of dentist salary important? When someone chooses a job or a line of profession, there are so many elements that will be included within the decision, and the consideration about the salary will be one of them. Besides passion and interest, salary plays an important role in one’s decision making – obviously affecting their thinking of how they will make a living and how they can strive in life. When you choose to be a dentist, naturally, you should also be aware of some of the requirements as well as possible future benefits. All lines of work have their own appeal and interest but it should be interesting to see what kind of benefits offered by dentistry in general.

dentist salary

The Work of a Dentist

A dentist is basically the doctor for the teeth, so everything should be related to the health and hygiene of the teeth in general. Dentists will diagnose, check, and treat dental problems, including the gums, teeth, and other parts within the mouth. Not only they provide treatments and care for the health of the mouth (and everything within), they also provide instructions and advices of proper care of the gums and teeth. Dentists can also provide information and insight about the right diet option that will affect the oral hygiene and health. Not only they are responsible for checking overall oral health, they are also responsible for fixing what is wrong from the patients’ condition.


In general, here are some of the basic jobs of the dentist:

  • Placing oral sealants or performing teeth whitening procedure through proper and careful manner
  • Finding a possible oral issue and performing the right repair
  • Dealing with teeth decay, including removing them and then filling in the cavities
  • Removing teeth
  • Repairing fractured or cracked teeth
  • Performing check and diagnosis for the general oral condition and health
  • Prescribing the right medications related to the problems, including antibiotics and others
  • Administering anesthetics during the proper treatment so patients won’t be in pain
  • Taking X-rays of the patients’ oral condition, including the jaw, gums, and teeth. They should also be responsible for examining the X-rays to find the real cause of the issue
  • Making measurements and also models of any dental appliances needed by the patients, like dentures or braces
  • Teaching patients about the proper diet and ways to maintain the oral health, which includes flossing, diets, proper brushing techniques, and such thing alike – all related to proper dental care and oral hygiene in general. When patients suffer from a certain condition, a professional and skilled dentist should be able to provide assistance and advice about the right treatments, care, and prevention.


Being a dentist isn’t easy. You basically have to deal with other people’s decay and possible waste matter found inside their mouth – which can be nasty. This is probably one of the many reasons why dentist salary is quite high. But then again, everything related to the health sector has always been costly with higher rate above the average. If you aren’t easily disgusted, this work may be perfect for you.


When performing checks or treating patients’ oral condition, it is also common for dentists to use different kinds of equipments – some of them can be high tech and sophisticated. It is common for them to use probes, mouth mirrors, X-ray machine, forceps, drills, scalpels, brushes, digital scanners, lasers, and other computerized machines and technologies.


Dentists who are joining internships or having their own private services should also perform administrative works which include overseeing supplies (and also equipment), managing them, bookkeeping, and possibly managing the administrative element, such as managing appointments, checking patients’ history record, maintaining patients’ data, and such thing alike. Dentists who have their own private office will possibly employ dental lab technicians, dental assistants, dental hygienist, and receptionist. The more various the services offered, the more expert professionals being hired.

Read : Dental Hygienist Salary

Dentistry Degree

General dentist will be awarded to dental school graduates. However, some people are often confused about the degree because some people are awarded Doctor of Dental Surgery (DDS) while the others are awarded Doctor of Dental Medicine (DDM). Basically, those two degrees are just the same. The graduates also undergo the same education too. It is just a matter of preference, really. Whereas some dental schools prefer the DDS degree, the others prefer the DDM degree – it doesn’t make a substantial or significant change. So, when you come across such a thing in dentistry degree, you know the basic condition and situation, right?



Since dentistry is related to the health sector, having the related educational background is a must. Proper education for a dentist is a must – after all, you don’t really want someone without the knowledge or the required skills to probe into your mouth and mess with everything inside, do you?


In most cases, dental schools have a specific requirement where applicants should complete a certain courses in science, like chemistry and biology, before they are admitted to the schools. While you are still in high school, make sure to take anatomy, math, physics, chemistry, and biology if you are thinking about being a professional dentist. When students want to apply for the dental program, they should have a bachelor degree, usually without any requirements in certain major. Mind you, though, that each school has different requirements so be sure to get the details on them.


Applicants should complete the so-called DAT (Dental Admission Test) that will be used to measure their ability and knowledge. Of course, this test won’t be the sole factor that determines the school for accepting applicants. They will also use interviews, recommendations, grade point average, and also the DAT before admitting applicants.


In dental schools, the general coursework and program would include anatomy, radiology, periodontics, and local anesthesia. Besides theories, students are also expected to have a direct practice. That’s why most dental schools have the clinical experience program where licensed (and mostly senior) dentists will supervise these students when they are working with patients. Be sure to get to certified dental schools with related programs. So far, there are 60 programs for dental schools that have been accredited by Dental Accreditation Commission. This Commission alone is a part of ADS (American Dental Association). Any dental schools with such accredited are guaranteed to have passed the basic requirements and qualifications for educational institutions.


In most cases, there are different types of dental specialties – 9 of them, if not mistaken – and students must take additional training before they can practice within that subject of specialty. General dentists don’t need to take these extra training – they can immediately work after getting the DDS or DDM degree. But if they do take these specialty trainings, they need to spend another 2 years to 4 years for residency related to the specific specialty subject. What about dentists who want to do full time research or who want to teach? Again, they need to take another 2 years to 5 years within dental advanced training. In general cases, it is quite common to see practicing dentists also teaching part time or supervising students.

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How to Become a Dentist

Now that you already know the basic educational requirements for becoming a dentist, do you know how to become one? First of all, if you want to know how to become a dentist, you need to have the license and certificate, and you also need to register for your wok. All states require dentists to have licenses – not having one will be a serious violation of the law – although the requirements may be different from one state to another, especially concerning the details.


Generally, most states would want the dentists- to be applicants to have their dental degree as well as passing practical and written tests administered by National Board Dental Examinations. In the event that you are taking a specialized field, you need to have the license for it. It isn’t uncommon for a certain state to require participants to take a special and certain state exam.


In total, general dentistry holds up around 132,800 positions, whereas maxillofacial and oral surgeon takes up around 6,800 spots. Orthodontists take up around 6,600 positions while specialists dentistry takes around 6,400 slots. Prosthodontists holds up around 900 positions.


In terms of employments, offices of dentists have the biggest percentage, around 71% of them. Self employed dentists take up around 19% of the position, followed by government dentists with their 3% allocation. Offices of physicians and outpatient care centers take up each the remaining 2%.


It is quite common that some dentists prefer working alone with their own establishments – although some are operating with small staff. Others may join partnerships and the remaining may opt for associate dentists. In most cases, dentists work full time, depending on how they manage the schedule. Some may be working on weekends and evenings, aside from the morning routines. Depending on each dentist’s preference, the numbers of hours may vary from one another.


9 Specialties Dentistry

As it was mentioned before, there are 9 specialty dentistry. From general dentistry, you can choose which one you want to delve more if you have a certain interest in the field.

  • Endodontists, focusing on root canal treatment and therapy. The experts should be able to remove blood supply and nerves from infected or injured teeth.
  • Dental public health, focusing on good dental care and health, as well as preventing dental diseases within a certain community.
  • Orthodontists, focusing on teeth straightening through proper pressure application with the help of braces or other appliances.
  • Oral and maxillofacial radiologists, focusing on neck and head disease diagnosis with the help of imaging equipments and technologies
  • Oral and maxillofacial surgeons, focusing on jaws, mouth, neck, gums, teeth, and head. They are also responsible for surgical procedures such as removing impacted teeth or repairing the cleft palate and lip.
  • Pediatric dentists, focusing on children care dentistry as well as patients with special needs
  • Oral pathologists, focusing on mouth condition diagnosis, such as oral issues (cancer, for instance) or ulcers and bumps
  • Prosthodontists, focusing on missing teeth care and replacement by having permanent fixtures, like bridges, dentures, or crowns
  • Periodontists, focusing on gums treatments and also the bones responsible for supporting the teeth.


Difference between Orthodontist and Dentist

So, what is the difference between orthodontist and dentist? Orthodontist is basically a dentist too but with advanced training in a more specialized field. Their specialty is to straighten the teeth. For problems with bad bites, misaligned jaw, crowded teeth, or crooked teeth, you should go directly to orthodontists. Besides the right treatments, they may suggest appliances like invisalign, retainers, braces, headgear, or other appliances. General dentists would provide general care, treatment, or clean up – not exclusively limited to crooked teeth.


Orthodontist Salary vs Dentist Salary

In general, orthodontist salary is higher than general dentist because of the complication of the work – not to mention that orthodontist is included within a special dentistry, where dentists should take the extra education and also practice.


In terms of median wage, dentists get $160,000 for annual income. Media wage is basically the number where half of the workers (within the industry) can get more than that, while the other half can earn less. In most cases, the lowest income is around $67,600 for annual earning while the highest one can reach $208,000. Here are some divisions of dentistry practices with their median earnings:

  • Orthodontists can get around $208,000 or even more
  • Oral and maxillofacial surgeons can get around the same as orthodontists
  • Dentist with specialties can get around $173,000
  • General dentists can get $154,000
  • Prosthodontists can get $126,000


Those are the basic difference between orthodontist salary vs dentist salary. Mind you that there will be different earning from one another. It depends on the number of working hours, years of practice, specialty, and also locations. Dentists working in big cities will be paid higher than those in small cities. Those who have been in the industry for decades will be paid higher than the new ones. Don’t forget that industries also take parts in determining the wage. For instance, offices of dentists have the annual wage reaching $164,000 while those working for governments may ‘only’ get around $156,500. Those working for offices of physicians get around $143,000 while the ones working at outpatient care centers may get $137.600. If dentist salary is the major drive in your decision in becoming a dentist, then you should check the salary fact applicable within your area or your state.


Salaries by States

As it was mentioned before, dentist salary is different based on the locations, expertise, etc. Salaries from one state to another are also different.  Here is the information of the highest dentist salary in 20 different states – from the highest to the lowest:


Delaware $227,000
New Hampshire $218,000
Alaska 217,100
North Dakota $214,400
North Carolina $211,300
Wisconsin $203,500
Nevada $195,300
South Carolina $195,300
Oregon $193,900
Minnesota $193,300
Ohio $191,200
Idaho $191,100
New York $181,000
Mississippi $178,600
Washington D.C. $175,000
Massachusetts $174,000
Kentucky $168,400
Connecticut $166,000
California $164,000
Pennsylvania $150,600


Basic Requirements

In becoming a professional dentist, quality plays an important role. You can’t just be interested in the dentist salary without a real passion in it. So, what are the requirements for being a dentist in general?

  • Passion and interest. It is definitely the most important factor. You need to have the passion in the field, especially in helping others and providing the needed services and assistance.
  • Communication skill. All dentists are required to have good communication skills, allowing them to interact with patients as well as other staffs. They should be able to convey messages to patients, dental assistants, dental hygienists, and also receptionists.
  • Detail oriented. Dentists should have detailed attention to everything. They should be aware of the color and shape of the teeth, as well as the space in between them. Don’t forget that dentists are also responsible for making false tooth, so they should be able to imitate the construction and design of the tooth with the real one. If the dentist works alone, they will be responsible for administrative work as well, so it won’t be easy for those not having detailed attention.
  • Leadership skills. Even when you are working with others, you need to have this skill. You should have a good initiative skill as well as a conscious understanding of what they need to do. If they have their own business establishments, this skill will be super crucial.
  • In general cases, dentists should be good with their hands. They will work mostly with their hands, such as operating the equipment. Not to mention that they should be able to work in a limited space (the patients’ mouth) and protecting their patients’ well-being at the same time. If they have shaky hands, imagine the impact to their patients and their safety.
  • Physical stamina. Not only most dentists would have to work full time, they will also have to bend over in a quite long time. If they aren’t fit enough, they would be overwhelmed with the work,
  • Organizational skills. Documents management is one of the needed skills for managing a successful business. Not many people understand the importance of managing good records and data of the patients.
  • There are different types of patients, really, since dentists will face them. Some are quiet, some are nagging, and some may be fussy. Not to mention the dentists that have to deal with kids, who are generally afraid of the dental work. If dentists aren’t patient, they will be considered rude – and patients may be afraid to see them.
  • Problem solving skills. Aside from the fact that they need to find out the issues from each patient, they should be able to find the proper solution. They can discuss all the possible treatments and care, resulting in successful outcome that help patients in a longer term.


Those are the general coverage of dentist’s responsibilities and the expected dentist salary for the work.



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