Your life of a dentist is not necessarily all caught up in other peoples’ mouths, though that certainly is where you’re going to spend a good deal of your time. Unless you specialize in veterinary medicine, you’ll need to develop decent people skills, because a good part of your life is spent as a teacher, showing your patients how to take care of their teeth and gums so they won’t have to see you so often. Ironically, one of your primary jobs is to keep patients from returning.
The life of a dentist is one of vigilance. Your patients rely on you to spot early warning signs of gum disease or cavities so they can take appropriate measures to keep the problem from getting worse. According to the Princeton Review, dentists, more than any other health-care professional, are into prevention more than treatment. It’s at the core of your practice and your very reason for existence. Even when patients come to see the dental hygienist for a biannual cleaning, you’ll step in to look over the patients’ mouths and poke and probe for potential problems.
It’s really hard for people to think of anything else in their lives when they have a toothache. Toothaches can cause some of the most excruciating and annoying pain in the whole body. And, they affect so much of a person’s life, from eating and talking to sleeping and exercising. When one of your patients has a toothache, she can’t get anything else done. In those times, patients who might do anything to avoid you suddenly hurry to beat down your door first thing in the morning. Your life revolves around relieving that pain, pulling the errant tooth, doing a surgical procedure and administering drugs to ease pain.
Like other professionals, you’ve got to make a living at your chosen profession and you can expect a pretty comfortable life for yourself. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, in 2010, dentists earned a median income of $146,920 per year. The BLS expects the number of jobs for dentists to grow by about 21 percent through 2020. To keep that rate of growth, your life must revolve around your business. Most dentists buy into an existing practice or purchase their own once they’ve spent a few years working with an experienced practitioner. A good part of your life will be watching over the books, hiring a reliable and qualified staff and making other business decisions, such as how to advertise and when to raise your rates.
A good part of your life revolves around learning, too, because as technology improves the way you can treat tooth and gum disorders, you definitely want to stay on the cutting edge. Technological advances can cut the amount of time you have to spend with each patient, giving you more time to grow your business and take in new patients. Additionally, you want to keep up with new and improved services you can offer your clientele, such as whitening and implants, which also will bring you additional income. You can find a lot of that new information and get a slew of continuing education through professional organizations like the American Dental Association. Membership also puts you in touch with other dentists, keeping you up to date on the latest techniques and advances.
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.
Linda Ray is an award-winning journalist with more than 20 years reporting experience. She's covered business for newspapers and magazines, including the "Greenville News," "Success Magazine" and "American City Business Journals." Ray holds a journalism degree and teaches writing, career development and an FDIC course called "Money Smart."