How Much Money Do Dentists Make: Understanding Dentist Salaries

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Are you considering a career in dentistry? One of the most common questions aspiring dentists have is, “How much money do dentists make?” Understanding dentist salaries is crucial when making career decisions and planning for your financial future. In this article, we will delve into the factors that affect dentist salaries, explore average earnings, highlight high-paying specializations, and answer frequently asked questions to provide you with a comprehensive understanding of dentist salaries.

Factors Affecting Dentist Salaries

When it comes to determining dentist salaries, several factors come into play. Let’s explore these factors in detail:


Just like in any profession, experience plays a significant role in earning potential. As dentists gain more experience, their skills improve, and their value in the market increases. Experienced dentists often have a higher patient base and are more likely to have established successful practices, resulting in higher incomes.


Location is another crucial factor that affects dentist salaries. Dentists practicing in urban areas with higher populations and greater demand for dental services tend to earn more than those in rural areas. Additionally, the cost of living and average income levels in a specific location can influence how much dentists earn.


Specialization within the field of dentistry can significantly impact earnings. Dentists who specialize in areas such as oral surgery, orthodontics, or periodontics often earn higher salaries due to the advanced skills and expertise required in these specialized areas. These dentists usually undergo additional training and education, making their services more valuable.

Work Setting

The work setting also plays a role in dentist salaries. Dentists can work in various settings, including private practices, hospitals, academic institutions, or government agencies. Private practice dentists have the potential to earn higher incomes as they have more control over their fees and patient volume.

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Average Dentist Salaries

Now that we’ve explored the factors influencing dentist salaries, let’s take a closer look at average earnings in the field. It’s important to note that these figures can vary based on factors like location and experience.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the average annual wage for dentists in the United States was $180,950 as of May 2020. It’s worth mentioning that this average includes dentists across all specialties and experience levels.

Regional variations also exist, with certain states offering higher average salaries. For example, dentists in states like Alaska, North Dakota, and New Hampshire tend to earn higher incomes compared to the national average. On the other hand, states with lower average incomes for dentists include Arkansas, Mississippi, and West Virginia.

High-Paying Specializations in Dentistry

While general dentistry offers a stable and rewarding career, some specializations within the field can lead to higher earnings. Let’s explore a few high-paying dental specializations:

Oral Surgery

Oral surgeons perform complex surgical procedures such as wisdom teeth extractions, jaw realignment, and dental implant placements. Due to the specialized nature of their work, oral surgeons often earn higher salaries.


Orthodontists specialize in correcting dental irregularities and misalignments, primarily through the use of braces or aligners. Their expertise in improving smiles and correcting jaw alignment issues positions them for higher earnings.


Periodontists focus on diagnosing and treating gum diseases, performing gum grafts, and placing dental implants. The specialized skills required in periodontics make it a high-paying specialization within dentistry.

FAQ: Common Questions about Dentist Salaries

Q: What is the starting salary for dentists?

A: The starting salary for dentists can vary based on factors such as location and experience. On average, new dentists can expect a starting salary ranging from $100,000 to $130,000 per year.

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Q: Do dentists earn more than doctors?

A: Dentist salaries can be comparable to or even higher than those of some doctors. However, it’s important to note that physician salaries can vary significantly based on medical specialties, experience levels, and other factors.


Understanding how much money dentists make is essential for anyone considering a career in dentistry. Factors such as experience, location, specialization, and work setting all influence dentist salaries. While the average dentist salary in the United States is around $180,950 per year, specializing in areas such as oral surgery, orthodontics, or periodontics can lead to higher earnings. Remember, these figures are averages and can vary based on individual circumstances. By exploring the various factors and specializations, you can make informed decisions about your dental career and financial future.

So, if you’re passionate about dentistry and wondering about the financial rewards, rest assured that the field offers promising earning potential. Stay dedicated, continue to expand your skills, and seize the opportunities that come your way to thrive in this rewarding profession.

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