Even with good dental hygiene, it’s impossible to avoid a visit to the dentist forever. If your insurance doesn’t cover it, you may feel stunned by how expensive some services are. This is especially true for cosmetic surgery, which is almost never covered by medical insurance and can set you back tens of thousands of dollars.
It’s natural to wonder – exactly how much does a dentist make? What does it take to become one? This article will give you the answers you’re looking for.
How Much Does a Dentist Make on Average?
The average base salary of a dentist in the US is $137,046 per year, with the actual income depending on a variety of factors. First of all, the state that the dentist operates in has a big impact on the salary. The states that offer the highest income are:
- Delaware – $257,290
- North Dakota – $238,170
- Alaska – $237,140
- North Carolina – $225,890
- New Hampshire – $219,920
On the other hand, dentists in southern states like Oklahoma and Louisiana make far less money.
Having a private practice is a good way to improve one’s income. However, the most important factor that determines a dentist’s salary is work experience. Here’s how much money a dentist can make depending on the stage in their career:
- 1 – 3 years – $98k – $179k ($130k on average)
- 4 – 6 years – $104k – $191k ($139k on average)
- 7 – 9 years – $107k – $195k ($141k on average)
- 10 – 14 years – $109k – $199k ($144k on average)
- 15+ years – $113k – $205k ($149k on average)
Keep in mind that these are just averages, and that some dentists make much more than this, depending on the services they offer and the city they’re in.
As you can see, most dentists make enough money for a very comfortable life. It’s one of the highest-paid professions, but it’s not one that everyone can do. Let’s take a look at what it takes to become a dentist.
After high school, a dentist’s education begins with a 4-year college. Many dentists decide to major in science-related disciplines, biology being the most common one. However, this isn’t a requirement, and you can continue your education if you’ve completed the pre-dentistry curriculum, which involves English, chemistry, physics, and biology.
Once you have your bachelor’s degree, you have to enroll in dental school. To do this, you need to pass the Dental Admissions Test (DAT) and have a satisfactory GPA. The minimum requirement for your GPA will depend on your chosen school.
If you get in, you go through a four-year program towards a doctor’s degree. Depending on your specialty, you can either carry degree of DMD (Doctor of Medical Dentistry) or DDS (Doctor of Dental Surgery).
Usually, you spend the first two years in a classroom, after which you can begin clinical rotation. During the 4th year of dental school, you start transitioning towards full-time clinical practice.
If eight years of education sound like a lot, you can opt for a concurrent bachelor’s-doctorate program that some schools offer. Upon graduation, you need to go through 2-3 years of residency in one of the main areas of dentistry. The following specialties are recognized in the US:
- Dental public health
- Pediatric dentistry
- Oral and maxillofacial surgery
- Orthodontics and dentofacial orthopedics
- Oral and maxillofacial radiology
Like all other medical professionals, every dentist needs a license. To get it, they need to pass written and clinical exams. Additionally, they need to conform to the regulations of the state they’re operating in, which might require additional exams.
What Is Being a Dentist Like?
Many people know that they want to be dentists long before they start their education in this field. They’re drawn to dental science, and they can see themselves taking care of other people’s oral health.
Depending on the field of dentistry you’re interested in, your responsibilities can vary from teeth whitening to performing oral cancer surgery. A dentist’s job can get quite stressful, especially if they work in oral surgery, prosthodontics, or pathology.
Many dentists need knowledge that expands beyond their area of expertise. This includes the use of digital imaging and X-ray machines, administering anesthesia, and various other skills.
Most dentists say that they’re very satisfied with their job. It can be exhausting and stressful, but most of the time the job is rewarding, both financially and personally. And as new procedures and methods are being found on a regular basis, there’s always room for improvement and innovation.
Are There Enough Jobs?
According to the last available data from the BLS (Bureau of Labor Statistics), job growth for dentists is expected to be 19% between 2016 and 2026. This is an extremely good outlook compared to most other professions.
The main reason for this accelerated growth is the fact that more people are becoming aware of the connection between their oral and overall health. In addition to this, the aging population will need more dental procedures in the foreseeable future, which is why there will be a lot of work for professionals in all areas of dentistry.
There is another reason why dentists are so popular these days. Cosmetic dentistry appeals to an increasing number of people. From offering teeth whitening to providing people with implants, cosmetic dentists are highly unlikely to be jobless, especially in metropolitan areas where the demand for this kind of procedure is growing day by day.
Should You Become a Dentist?
Now that you know how much money dentists can make, and what it is that they do, you can decide whether this is the career for you. Like all other medical professions, dentistry is a career that’s not easily attainable, but it’s highly rewarding once you start practicing.
If bringing smiles to people’s faces is something that inspires you, and you’re willing to get down to work, a career in dentistry might be a good decision.