You can make an exceptional income as a general dentist and join 90,950 others in the United States, according to May 2011 data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. But you must be highly organized, patient, detail oriented and highly dexterous. The thought of prodding around inside peoples' mouths should not make you squeamish, either.
Average Income & Benefits
An average salary for a dentist was $161,750 per year, according to the BLS. Even the lowest 10 percent make $74,490 or less, depending on their geographic locations, experience and industry. Realize that you would likely be self-employed as a dentist, as many are, and pay for your own benefits. If you work for an employer, you may receive benefits such as paid time off, a retirement plan and medical insurance.
Income by Industry
Your income would be highest working in a dental office, as an employee or owner. These folks earned average annual salaries of $164,780, according to the BLS. Your pay as a state government employee or outpatient care services dentist would be somewhat less: $147,340 and $137,500 per year, respectively. And you would only earn $108,100 per year at a medical or surgical hospital.
Income by State
Move to New Hampshire if you want to make the most as a dentist. Dentists earned $237,430 per year, according to the BLS. The next best places are Delaware and Maine at $210,440 and $208,060 per year, respectively. If you aren't on the east coast, try Alabama; dentists there made $205,130 annually. Your salary would be closer to the national average in Michigan at $162,200 per year. And expect to earn $121,650 per year if you work in Illinois.
Education & Training
Becoming a dentist isn't easy. You'll need to earn a bachelor's degree, preferably in one of the sciences, such as biology. You'll then spend four years in dental school, studying for your doctorate of dental medicine or dental surgery, according to the BLS. Subsequently, expect to spend one to two years as a resident, working under an experienced dentist. If you want to work in research or teach dentistry, you would need two to five years of additional courses.
The BLS expects the number of jobs for dentists to increase 21 percent between 2010 and 2020. This rate of growth is faster than the national average of 14 percent. A greater understanding that oral health is important for overall health will spur much of the job growth. An aging population of baby boomers will also increase job opportunities, as people need more dental work as they get older.
2016 Salary Information for Dentists
Dentists earned a median annual salary of $158,390 in 2016, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. On the low end, dentists earned a 25th percentile salary of $110,030, meaning 75 percent earned more than this amount. The 75th percentile salary is $201,830, meaning 25 percent earn more. In 2016, 153,500 people were employed in the U.S. as dentists.
- Bureau of Labor Statistics: Occupational Outlook Handbook: Dentists
- Bureau of Labor Statistics: Occupational Employment Statistics: Dentists, General
- StateUniversity.com: Dentist Job Description, Career as a Dentist, Salary, Employment - Definition and Nature of the Work, Education and Training Requirements, Getting the Job
- American Dental Association: Dental Practice
- U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics: Occupational Outlook Handbook: Dentists
- Career Trend: Dentists
- Creatas Images/Creatas/Getty Images