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Dentists, General
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Dentists diagnose and treat problems with patients’ teeth, gums, and related parts of the mouth. They provide advice and instruction on taking care of the teeth and gums and on diet choices that affect oral health.
Predicted employment growth
Over the next decade, jobs for dentists, general are expected to grow by 19%, and should have about 6,400 job openings a year.
Safety from automation
Dentists, general are less likely to be automated than 96% of other careers.
Workforce size
Dentists, general, with 132,800 workers, form a larger workforce than 71% of careers.
About 99% of dentists have a graduate-level education, and 100% have at least a bachelor's degree.
Education attained by dentists
High School
Some College
Bachelor's Degree
Master's Degree
Context: workers with graduate degrees
More dentists have graduate degrees than 99% of other careeers.
The median (middle) salary for dentists, general is higher than 98% of all other jobs' middle salaries. The graph shows inflation-adjusted salaries for most dentists, general.
This job's median $152KAll jobs' median $39K$160K$38K20142015201620172018$0$50K$100K$150K$200K$250K
Note: The salaries for dentists, general have been top-coded by the BLS; in 2018, all annual salaries larger than $208,000 are recorded as $208,000.
Context: Median Salary
Women account for 30% of dentists -- that's a smaller percentage than 54% of other jobs.
Gender of dentists
Context: Salary inequity
For each career, we compared the median (middle) men's salary to the median women's salary. For dentists, the median men's salary was 11% more the median woman's salary.
About 25% of dentists are minority, and 25% are foreign-born.
Race/origin of dentists
Pacific Islander
American Indian
Context: Foreign-born workers (25%)
Where are the most jobs?
We ranked the number of jobs in Dentists, General per thousand workers in each state, DC, and Puerto Rico. The darker the blue, the higher the job density.
Job benefits
Employer or union-sponsored pension plans are offered to 37% of dentists, and 52% have company-sponsored health insurance (17% have dependents enrolled in their employer's health plan).
Employer-provided health coverage for dentists
100% premiums covered
Partial premiums covered
Plan with no cost sharing
No health insurance
Top college degrees
Here are the top college degrees held by the 100% of people in this job who have at least a bachelor's degree. Some of degrees may link to multiple programs due to the way Census classifies college majors. Click on a program to learn more about career opportunities for people who major in that field.
The downside
Some jobs are more stressful than others, and some are just plain dangerous. The following list gives the percentages of dentists, general who report hazardous or difficult situations typically occurring at least once a week.
  • Responsible for Others' Health and Safety (92%)
  • Exposed to Disease or Infections (90%)
  • Exposed to Radiation (87%)
  • Consequence of Error (78%)
  • Exposed to Contaminants (74%)
  • Time Pressure (64%)
  • Deal With Unpleasant or Angry People (55%)
  • Frequency of Conflict Situations (51%)
  • Exposed to Hazardous Conditions (42%)
  • Exposed to Minor Burns, Cuts, Bites, or Stings (39%)
  • Exposed to Hazardous Equipment (33%)
Salary and diversity
Salary overview
What do dentists earn?

In this section, we want to give you a clear idea of what you can expect to earn in this career. We use two sources of data here: the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), which asks employers to classify their workforce and to report salaries using the SOC-specialty level of reporting, and the American Community Survey (ACS), which asks people to classify their jobs using the broad classifications that ididio uses for career profiles, and to self-report their salaries. For some jobs, the differences in survey approaches between BLS and ACS can paint a very different end-picture. In particular, the ACS data is reported for the larger career group dentists, which combines the data for 5 careers, including dentists, general. Whenever possible, we provide data from both sources.

The BLS-compiled salary data is reported by companies for their employees. This data is classified by SOC specialty, and excludes self-employed workers. We first show the distribution of salaries for dentists, general, and then we show how the middle (median) salary for dentists, general compares to the BLS-computed median salaries of other careers.
Distribution: Salaries for dentists, general (BLS Salary Data)
Context: Median salaries across careers (BLS Salary Data)
Note: The salaries for dentists, general have been top-coded by the BLS; in 2018, all annual salaries larger than $208,000 are recorded as $208,000.
We compiled household data from the ACS to determine the salaries that people working at least 35 hours a week report themselves to earn. Unlike the BLS estimates, this data includes self-employed wages. Additionally, we only have ACS survey data for the larger career category and not for the specialty level. We first show the full salary distribution for all dentists, and then we show how the median (middle) salary for dentists compares to the median ACS-reported salary of other careers.
Distribution: Salaries for dentists (ACS Salary Data)
Context: Median salaries across careers (ACS Salary Data)
Employers and salary
A look at employers and corresponding salaries
The donut shares the break-down of workers by employer type, and following we show the salary distributions for these workers based on those employer types. For some careers, the salaries can be vastly different between private, government, and self-employment. As with our salary overview, we view the both the BLS economists' salary profiles and the household-reported salaries from ACS to get a thorough understanding of where dentists, general work and for what salary. We have the great faith in the accuracy of economist-vetted BLS data; however, the BLS restrictions on which employers are surveyed skews the data a bit (read more in the sources), and the ACS responses provide different and useful categorizations of employers and salaries.
Employers of Dentists (ACS)
Private for-profit (33.6%)
Private not-for-profit (4.5%)
Local government (0.6%)
State government (1.3%)
Federal government (3.5%)
Self-employed incorporated (40.0%)
Self-employed not incorporated (16.5%)
Working without pay (0.0%)
Distribution: Salaries of dentists by type of employer (ACS data)
Following are the salary distributions by employer type calculated by aggregating individual household survey responses. These salaries were reported for the larger career group of dentists, which combines the 5 specialties for this career.
$103K$97K$104K$106K$105K$100K$117K$102K$25K$0$50,000$100,000$150,000$200,000Working without paySelf-employed not incorporatedSelf-employed incorporatedFederal governmentState governmentLocal governmentPrivate not-for-profitPrivate for-profitAll
Note: The salaries for dentists, general have been top-coded by the BLS; in 2018, all annual salaries larger than $208,000 are recorded as $208,000.
Distribution: Salaries of dentists, general by type of employer (BLS data)
Following are the salary distributions by employer type as reported by BLS based on large employer-focused surveys. We note that smaller employer categories are not included by BLS. Remember that the BLS salaries are for the specialty dentists, general, and may differ signficantly from the ACS salary estimates which combine several career specialties.
$152K$144K$153K$132K$0$50,000$100,000$150,000$200,000$250,000State governmentLocal governmentPrivateAll
Note: The salaries for dentists, general have been top-coded by the BLS; in 2018, all annual salaries larger than $208,000 are recorded as $208,000.
Age and career advancement
Salary growth for dentists

The biggest take-away from the following two charts is the relationship between salary and experience that we can infer from age. Does this job seem to attract especially younger or older workers? Does it reward experience?

Take a minute a look at how much you might expect your salary to increase with each five years' experience, as well as how the numbers working in this career changes. We only provide this data when there are enough consistent ACS survey responses to allow a reasonable margin of error, so for some careers you will see gaps in our reporting of salary by age.

$108K$114K$111K$104K$112K$103K$65K$103K$0$50K$100K$150K$200KSalary distribution20-2425-2930-3435-3940-4445-4950-5455-5960-64
05K10K15K20KNumber employed20-2425-2930-3435-3940-4445-4950-5455-5960-64

Our only sources for career data containing age, gender, or origin/race come from the Census Bureau. To provide these breakdowns, we have aggregated ACS person-level career survey responses by career, gender, race, and age. These graphics reflect the results of our aggregations, and are useful for identifying trends. A careful statistical study of the impact of age, gender, and race on salaries would correct for other factors that could be contributing to salary differences.

Gender and Equity
Dentists and gender

With 30% women, this occupation has a lower percentage of women than 54% of careers.

Context: Women in the workforce
Gender of Dentists
Men (70%)
Women (30%)
Distribution: Salaries by gender

As we'll illustrate at the bottom of this section, the median salary for all full-time male workers in the US exceeds the full-time median salary for women by 20%. The situation is a little better for dentists, with the median salary for men 11% higher than the median salary for women. This chart shows you the salary range for most workers by gender.

Context: Salary Inequity

Nationwide there are twenty careers for which men do not have a higher median (middle) salary than women. The chart below shows the salary inequity, the percentage by which the median men's salary is higher than the median women's salary, for most jobs. Dentists have one of the smaller percentage increases for men's salary, with the increase the men's median salary over the women's median salary in this job lower than that for 67% of other jobs.


Our only sources for career data containing age, gender, or origin/race come from the Census Bureau. To provide these breakdowns, we have aggregated ACS person-level career survey responses by career, gender, race, and age. These graphics reflect the results of our aggregations, and are useful for identifying trends. A careful statistical study of the impact of age, gender, and race on salaries would correct for other factors that could be contributing to salary differences.

Race and origin of dentists

The representation of minority and foreign-born workers is quite different between careers, and the relative pay of those workers also varies significantly between careers. There is a higher percentage of minority dentists than for 74% of other careers. This career hires a larger percentage of foreign-born workers than most other careers.

Race/origin of dentists
White (74% )
Asian (18% )
Black (3% )
Multiracial (2% )
Other (1% )
Hispanic (1% )
Pacific Islander (0% )
American Indian (0% )
Context: Representation of minorities in the workforce
Context: Representation of foreign-born workers
Distribution: Salaries for dentists by race/origin

For some careers, there is a pay disparity depending on race or origin, though this is not prevalent. We calculate standard errors for all of our calculations, and when the error is high we do not show results. Therefore, for some jobs will have omitted race/origin categories.

Distribution: Salaries for dentists by nativity
$103K$104K$0$50K$100K$150K$200KAll native citizensAll foreign-born

Our only sources for career data containing age, gender, or origin/race come from the Census Bureau. To provide these breakdowns, we have aggregated ACS person-level career survey responses by career, gender, race, and age. These graphics reflect the results of our aggregations, and are useful for identifying trends. A careful statistical study of the impact of age, gender, and race on salaries would correct for other factors that could be contributing to salary differences.

Pathways to this career
Education requirements and salary
Education attained by dentists, general

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), dentists, general typically hold a doctoral or professional degree.

Sometimes the typical education identified by the BLS differs a bit from the reality of the how much education current workers actually have. The donut shows the education level held by people currently working as dentists as reported in responses to the American Community Survey. Following, we investigate whether education level influences salary for dentists.

Education attained by dentists
High School
Some College
Associate's Degree
Bachelor's Degree
Master's Degree
Professional Deg/Doct
Details: Education and training recommended for dentists, general

All dental schools require applicants to have completed certain science courses, such as biology and chemistry, before entering dental school. Students typically need at least a bachelor’s degree to enter most dental programs, although no specific major is required. However, majoring in a science, such as biology, might increase one’s chances of being accepted. Requirements vary by school.

Applicants to dental schools usually take the Dental Admission Test (DAT). Dental schools use these tests along with other factors, such as grade point average, interviews, and recommendations, to admit students into their programs.

Dental school programs typically include coursework in subjects such as local anesthesia, anatomy, periodontics (the study of oral disease and health), and radiology. All programs at dental schools include clinical experience in which students work directly with patients under the supervision of a licensed dentist. As of 2016, the Commission on Dental Accreditation, part of the American Dental Association, has accredited more than 60 dental school programs.

High school students who want to become dentists should take courses in chemistry, physics, biology, anatomy, and math.

Details: Licensing and certification recommended for dentists, general

Dentists must be licensed in the state(s) in which they work. All states require dentists to be licensed; requirements vary by state. Most states require a dentist to have a degree from an accredited dental school and to pass the written and practical National Board Dental Examinations.

In addition, a dentist who wants to practice in one of the nine specialties must have a license in that specialty. Licensure requires the completion of a residency after dental school and, in some cases, the completion of a special state exam.

Distribution: Salary by education level

What level of education is truly needed for dentists? Below we see the distribution of dentists salaries based on the education attained. You may have noticed in the dashboard and elsewhere that BLS top-codes salaries. ACS also engages in a form of top-coding, but by looking at the broader field of dentists and using the ACS, we are able to see some of the higher salaries and can give a better idea of the range of salaries for this field. These comparisons are based on all survey responses by those who identified themselves as dentists, and are not intended as a statistical analysis of salary differences that would correct for non-educational factors that could contribute to high or low earnings.

$54K$160K$104K$102K$0$50K$100K$150K$200KHigh School (0%)Bachelor's Degree (1%)Professional Deg/Doct (75%)Doctorate (22%)
Bachelor's degree pathways
College majors held by dentists

This table shows the college majors held by people working as dentists. Select any degree to see detailed information. We are able to connect careers to degrees using the American Community Survey (ACS), and their degrees are defined a little differently from our programs, which are based on standard CIP classifications. Therefore, selecting some degrees will lead to a selection of CIP-level programs from which to choose.

If you see "**" before the name of a degree/program, that means this field is one that the Department of Education believes is preparatory for this career. However, you can see from this list that those recommendations are far from your only path to this job!

Select any title to learn more about that degree
Percentage of Dentists with this degree
Salary for all majors
Salary distribution (across jobs). Showing 0-$200,000.
Middle 50%
Middle 80%
Final education level of all people with this major
Bachelor's Degree
Master's Degree
Gender of people this bachelor's degree
The link between degrees and careers
The link between degrees and careers

With the following "sankey" diagram, you can follow the top ten bachelor's degrees held by people working as dentists, and then, in turn, you can see the 10 occupations that hire the most of each degree's graduates. This visualization links fields of studies and careers, suggesting both similar careers and options for degrees. The full list of bachelor's degrees held by dentists given in the previous section reminds us that there are many paths to these careers beyond what we can summarize here.

This job
Top 10 majors
Each major's top ten jobs
Physicians and surgeonsPostsecondary teachersManagers (specialized areas)Elementary and middle school teachersDentistsRegistered nursesPhysical scientists (specialized areas)Epidemiologists and Medical/Life ScientistsClinical laboratory technologists and techniciansPharmacistsChemists and materials scientistsChief executives and legislatorsFirst-line supervisors of retail sales workersAccountants and auditorsWholesale and manufacturing sales representativesMedical and health services managersSecondary school teachersCounselorsSocial workersPsychologistsLawyers, judges, and magistratesHuman resources workersEducation administratorsNurse PractitionersNursing, psychiatric, and home health aidesNurse anesthetistsVeterinariansBiological scientistsScience techniciansPhysician assistantsChiropractorsHealth Practitioner Support Technologists and TechniciansBiologyChemistryMultidisciplinary or GeneralSciencePsychologyNursingZoologyBiochemical SciencesHealth and MedicalPreparatory ProgramsMicrobiologyPharmacy, PharmaceuticalSciences, andAdministrationAll other degrees
Switching Careers
Most common new jobs
The most common next careers for dentists

What jobs will most dentists hold next year?

The data in this chart comes from person interviews for the Census Bureau's Current Population Survey. The survey interviews households eight times over a two-year period, allowing us a glimpse into how people move from job to job. You can see more details from the results of the survey in our last tab in this section, and you can read about our methodology in our source descriptions.

Here we see all of the jobs that at least 1% of dentists reported holding in their second year's survey. Is your future job on this list? For dentists, there isn't a lot of action in this chart! This isn't a career that invites much moving around.

DentistsPhysicians and surgeonsDental hygienists
Lateral career moves
Lateral job transitions for dentists

A lateral career transition is a move to a job with similar pay and responsibilities. A move to such a job can offer a change of pace without an increase in stress or a decrease in pay. The following table simply identifies the one job which was held by at least 1% of survey respondents before working as dentists as well as 1% of respondents after working as dentists. Select a row to investigate the job's full description and determine if it truly offers an opportunity for a lateral transition.

Full prior and next career listings
Prior and next careers for dentists: full listings

What do people typically do before and after they work as dentists? Here are the full lists of all jobs that at least 1% of dentists surveyed reported as holding a year earlier or later.

Choose which type of transition to view
Prior jobs
Next jobs
Prior careers for dentists
Annual openings
How many openings are expected each year?
Salary distribution for people in this occupation. Range is 0-$200,000.
Middle 50%
Middle 80%
High School
Some College
Bachelor's Degree
Master's Degree
Percentage Transitioning
What percentage worked in this job the previous year?
Medical and health services managers
Physicians and surgeons
No occupation
Read about dentists, general
Responsibilities and activities
Responsibilities and activities

Dentists typically do the following:

  • Remove decay from teeth and fill cavities
  • Repair cracked or fractured teeth and remove teeth
  • Place sealants or whitening agents on teeth
  • Administer anesthetics to keep patients from feeling pain during procedures
  • Prescribe antibiotics or other medications
  • Examine x rays of teeth, gums, the jaw, and nearby areas in order to diagnose problems
  • Make models and measurements for dental appliances, such as dentures, to fit patients
  • Teach patients about diets, flossing, the use of fluoride, and other aspects of dental care

Dentists use a variety of equipment, including x-ray machines, drills, mouth mirrors, probes, forceps, brushes, and scalpels. They also use lasers, digital scanners, and other computer technologies.

In addition, dentists in private practice oversee a variety of administrative tasks, including bookkeeping and buying equipment and supplies. They employ and supervise dental hygienists, dental assistants, dental laboratory technicians, and receptionists.

Most dentists are general practitioners and handle a variety of dental needs. Other dentists practice in 1 of 9 specialty areas:

Dental public health specialists promote good dental health and the prevention of dental diseases in specific communities.

Endodontists perform root-canal therapy, by which they remove the nerves and blood supply from injured or infected teeth.

Oral and maxillofacial radiologists diagnose diseases in the head and neck through the use of imaging technologies.

Oral and maxillofacial surgeons operate on the mouth, jaws, teeth, gums, neck, and head, performing procedures such as surgically repairing a cleft lip and palate or removing impacted teeth.

Oral pathologists diagnose conditions in the mouth, such as bumps or ulcers, and oral diseases, such as cancer.

Orthodontists straighten teeth by applying pressure to the teeth with braces or other appliances.

Pediatric dentists focus on dentistry for children and special-needs patients.

Periodontists treat the gums and bones supporting the teeth.

Prosthodontists replace missing teeth with permanent fixtures, such as crowns and bridges, or with removable fixtures, such as dentures.

Some dentists teach or do research. For more information, see the profiles on medical scientists and postsecondary teachers.

Personality and skills
Personality and skills

Can you see yourself in the ranks of dentists, general? Here are the skills and traits that could lead to success.

Communication skills
Dentists must communicate effectively with patients, dental hygienists, dental assistants, and receptionists.
Detail oriented
Dentists must pay attention to the shape and color of teeth and to the space between them. For example, they may need to closely match a false tooth with a patient’s other teeth.
Dentists must be good at working with their hands. They must work carefully with tools in a small space and ensure the safety of their patients.
Leadership skills
Most dentists manage and lead staff in their own dental practices.
Organizational skills
Keeping accurate records of patient care is critical in both medical and business settings.
Dentists may work for long periods with patients who need special attention. Children and patients with a fear of dental work may require a lot of patience.
Physical stamina
Dentists typically bend over patients for long periods.
Problem-solving skills
Dentists must evaluate patients’ symptoms and choose the appropriate treatments.
Trends in employment
Salary trends
Distribution and trends: Salaries for dentists, general
Choose actual dollars or inflation-adjusted dollars to view
Adjusted for inflation
Historic dollars

In 2018, the median (middle) salary for dentists, general was higher than 98% of all other jobs' middle salaries. This graphic shows how the salary distribution (adjusted for inflation) has changed for this job over recent years. The gray line, as a comparison, shows the median salary of all US workers.

This job's median $152KAll jobs' median $39K$163K$38K200420052006200720082009201020112012201320142015201620172018$0$50K$100K$150K$200K$250K

Note: The salaries for dentists, general have been top-coded by the BLS; in 2018, all annual salaries larger than $208,000 are recorded as $208,000.

Projected versus actual employment
Exploring actual employment trends versus projected trends

Currently, jobs for dentists, general are anticipated to grow by 19% over the next decade; only 7% of jobs are predicted to grow more.

The projected employment for dentists, general is the best guess created by talented economists and statisticians at the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). However, as you look through several careers you'll notice that the projections are heavily influenced by past performance and may miss current trends. No one can tell the future, and as new information and better techniques are developed, actual counts and future projections may change. Here's a glimpse at the actual counts versus the projections over time.

Employment counts
Actual measured employment
BLS 10-year predictions
Variation by state
State-by-state employment numbers

Some careers tend to be centered in specific parts of the country. For example, most jobs in fashion are in New York or California. Let's see if your dream job is easy to find in your dream location! We have a few choices for viewing the data that can help you get a full employment picture.

Job density versus job count

Which states hire the most dentists, general? We wonder if that's a fair question since states come in all sizes, so instead let's start with the question of which states have the highest density of people working as dentists, general. You can choose to view the number of jobs per state if you prefer.

BLS vs ACS data

This map defaults to employment information from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), which provides job totals carefully compiled for accuracy and with a primary focus on how employers describe their workers. The BLS job totals do not count self-employed workers. We've also compiled totals using the Census Bureau's American Community Survey (ACS) which are based on how workers describe themselves. Sometimes ACS results are quite a bit different from the employer-based BLS data.

One important factor in the differences between ACS and BLS data is that the ACS numbers are for all dentists, comprised of all specialities listed in the menu bar, and you can choose to view the BLS at the specialty or full career level.

Choose the metric to review
Jobs per 1000 working
Number of jobs
Use this data source
BLS for this specialty
Number of Dentists, General per 1,000 workers (BLS)
Select a state to see local area details
Salaries by state
Let's get a feel for where dentists, general earn the highest salaries. There are several choices for which data we consider and how we view that data, and each can lead to different conclusions, so please read on...
Median salary versus state ratio

We use two methods to compare salaries across states:

  • In-state comparisons: the ratio of median (middle) salaries for dentists compared to the median salary for all people working in each state, or
  • Median salary: the unaltered median salaries for dentists.

We hope the ratio allows perspective about how salaries may compare to the regional cost-of-living.

BLS vs ACS data

We have two sources for statewide salary information with important distinctions. The BLS data is created by surveying companies, missing individuals who are self-employed or work for smaller companies. The ACS data is compiled from multi-faceted household surveys and may reflect the inconsistencies that people may have in reporting information. The ACS salaries are for all dentists, which combines the specialities from which you can choose at the top of the page.

Choose the metric to review
In-state comparisions
Median salary
Use this data source
BLS for this specialty
Median salary ratio: Dentists, General to all workers (BLS for this specialty)
The darkest shading corresponds to states in which dentists, general earn the highest salary when compared to other jobs in the state. We think this ratio might be a better indicator than the actual salary for your buying power as a state resident.
Select a state to see local area details
Compare to similar jobs

If this job interests you, then use the dots below to find other jobs you might like. The dots closer to the top represent jobs that are like Dentists (shown with a blue star). Look for the dots to the right to find the best salaries! (We pulled salary data from BLS, and they give a top salary value of just over $200K to protect privacy, so our graph would go much higher if the salaries were not top coded.)

How should the career similarity be computed

There are a number of ways to measure the similarity of jobs, here are a few we provide:

  • Interests: Also known as a Holland Code - Are you a thinker? A helper? What fits your personality?
  • Environment: Are there hazards? Will you be comfortable? Will it be stressful?
  • Knowledge: What do you need to know the most about?
  • Physical Abilities: Do you need to especially strong or coordinated?
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