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The Average Salary of a Dentist

The average salary of a dentist is $158,310. 

There are over 150,000 dentists in the U.S., according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). That’s not surprising given that most Americans make an annual trip to the dentist. The CDC found in 2014 that 62% of Americans between the ages of 18 and 64 had visited a dentist in the past year. That’s close to the percentage (64%) of Americans who have dental benefits. Let’s take a closer look at the job landscape for dentists and the average salary of a dentist. 

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The Average Salary of a Dentist: The Basics

According to the BLS, the 2015 median pay for dentists was $158,310 per year, $76.11 per hour per hour. The number of dentists is projected to grow by 18% between 2014 and 2024. That’s much higher than the 7% projected growth rate for all fields.

The top-paying state for dentists is Delaware, where the annual mean wage for dentists is $227,160. Other high-paying states for dentists are New Hampshire, Alaska, North Dakota and North Carolina. The top-paying metro area for dentists is Jackson, TN. Other high-paying metro areas for dentists are Port St. Lucie, FL; Greensboro-High Point, NC; Morgantown, WV and New Bedford, MA.

Dentists enjoy a high salary and can feel confident that their field will grow in the years to come. But becoming a dentist is no walk in the park. According to the American Student Dental Association, the average student debt for all indebted dental school graduates in 2016 was $261,149. Eighty percent of 2016 dental school graduates reported debt levels of more than $100,000. Since 1990, the amount of debt that dental students take on has increased fourfold.

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The Average Salary of a Dentist: Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeons

The Average Salary of a Dentist

Not surprisingly, oral surgeons tend to earn higher salaries than non-surgeon dentists. The average salary of an oral and maxillofacial surgeon is $233,900 per year, $112.45 per hour. The top-paying state for oral and maxillofacial surgeons is Wisconsin. Other high-paying states are Virginia, South Dakota, South Carolina and North Carolina. The top-paying metro area for oral and maxillofacial surgeons is Boston-Cambridge-Newton, MA. Other high-paying metro areas are Newark, NJ-PA; Nassau County-Suffolk County, NY; Charlotte-Concord-Gastonia, NC-SC and Los Angeles-Long Beach-Glendale, CA.

The Average Salary of a Dentist: Orthodontists

Orthodontists, too, earn higher salaries than regular dentists. The average salary of an orthodontist is $221,390 per year, $106.44 per hour. The highest paying state for orthodontists is Tennessee. Other high-paying states are Connecticut, Colorado, Minnesota and Mississippi. The top-paying metro area for orthodontists is Memphis, TN-MS-AR. Other high-paying metro areas are Atlanta-Sandy Springs-Roswell, GA; Boston-Cambridge-Newton, MA; Silver Spring-Frederick-Rockville, MD and Camden, NJ.

Related Article: Top 5 Signs Your Work-Life Balance Is Out of Whack 

The Average Salary of a Dentist: Prosthodontists

The Average Salary of a Dentist

The average salary of a prosthodontist is $161,020 per year, $77.41 per hour. The BLS lacks state- and metro-specific data on prosthodontist pay. How are prosthodontists different from orthodontists? Prosthodontists construct oral prostheses that fill in gaps in patients’ teeth or jaws.

The Average Salary of a Dental Hygienist

The average salary of a dental hygienist is $72,720 per year, $34.96 per hour. The top-paying state for dental hygienists is not a state – it’s the District of Columbia, where dental hygienists make an annual mean wage of $98,530. Other high-paying states for dental hygienists are California, New Mexico, Nevada and Washington. The top-paying metro area for dental hygienists is San Francisco-Redwood City-South San Francisco, CA, where the annual mean wage in the profession is $108,790. Other high-paying metro areas are Reno, NV; Oakland-Hayward-Berkeley, CA; Vallejo-Fairfield, CA and Longview, WA.

The Average Salary of a Dental Assistant

The average salary of a dental assistant is $36,920 per year, $17.75 per hour. The top-paying state for dental assistants is New Hampshire, where the annual mean wage is $45,480. Other high-paying states for dental assistants are Alaska, Minnesota, Massachusetts and North Dakota. The top-paying metro area for dental assistants is San Rafael, CA, where the annual mean wage in the profession is $50,170. Other high-paying metro areas for dental assistants are Manchester, NH; Haverhill-Newburyport-Amesbury Town, MA-NH; San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara, CA and Taunton-Middleborough-Norton, MA.

Bottom Line

Dentists tend to have a good work-life balance and earn high salaries. However, becoming a dentist involves a considerable investment of time and money. Those who train to become specialists such as oral surgeons and orthodontists stand to earn over $200,000 per year.

Photo credit: ©iStock.com/RapidEye, ©iStock.com/Tempura

Amelia Josephson Amelia Josephson is a writer passionate about covering financial literacy topics. Her areas of expertise include retirement and home buying. Amelia's work has appeared across the web, including on AOL, CBS News and The Simple Dollar. She holds degrees from Columbia and Oxford. Originally from Alaska, Amelia now calls Brooklyn home.
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