A very common question, what is the average dentist salary, or how much will I make as a dentist?

This will vary depending on where you practice, what type of practice you have, and how busy your practice is.

Some dentists in not too busy offices may make $50-60,000/year, which sounds low, but they are out there.  On the flip side, there are general dentists who can make >$300,000 and specialists who likely make much more than that.  The average dentist salary is about $120,000.

Visit our Dentist Career page for discussion on the types of options available for dentists.

  • Solo Practice
  • Group Practice/Associateship
  • Corporate Practice
  • Education
  • Philosophy

Factors In a Dentist Salary:

In any dental practice, the gross production is what sets the bar for your salary.  If you don't do any dentistry, you can't get paid.  This includes your production, your hygienist(s), and any associates or other dentists in the practice, along with the sales of various related products or services you may sell in your office.

Ideally you would collect 100% of what the office produces, but this is rarely the case.  Therefore, the amount collected is usually what a dentist salary is based off of.

It is common for dental offices to have 50-80% overhead costs, so if you produce $1,000,000 per year, if your overhead was 70%, depending on the production vs collection, but you would make somewhere in the $300,000 range. 

There are also tax implications, which a creative accountant can probably help you with to shelter some of the funds and likely increase what you keep, but that's a discussion for a different website.  Lol.

Solo Practice:

In a solo practice, you are the boss.  You will likely keep most of it, but you have staff salaries to pay, benefits, rent, equipment costs, lab fees, licenses, malpractice insurance, other insurance, and whatever other fees your office has.

Group Practice:

Production vs Collections: In a group practice, you likely will get paid a percent of your production or collection.  This is usually in the 25-40% range.  It may be tempting to just go with whatever office pays the higher percentage, but you should look deeper into the practices.

For example, one office may pay you 40% of the production, but the owner dentist cherry picks all the crown and bridge, and schedules all the fillings on with you.  Or the owner may have a busy schedule, but all the patients want to see him or her, so when a new associate is added, that person's schedule is empty.

Versus an office that may pay 30%, but where the work is split more evenly and has enough existing patients and enough new patients coming in to provide work for a new dentist. 

Lab Fees: Another cost is lab fees.  Some offices make the associate pay for their own lab fees and remakes, some do not. 

For example:

$1000 crown

-$200 lab fee

Net $800 x 40% = $320

The same $1000 crown, but the office pays the lab fee.

$1000 x 35% = $350.

Employee vs Independent Contractor: In a group practice you should also be aware of your status as an employee or independent contractor.  Employees normally get benefits, but there may be tax advantages to being an independent contractor.  Again, more discussion for an accountant.

Corporate Practice:

You likely will be an employee and your salary will be based on your production, but be advised that you may have pressure from the corporate office telling you how to practice.  Again, it is important to look into the schedules and talk to the existing dentists to see if it would be a good fit for you.

Practice Philosophy:

Another big factor to consider is what you want your practice philosophy to be.  Dentists are kind of like car mechanics, in the sense that there is a lot of times that work is needed and the patient is completely asymptomatic.  Then it comes down to how you present the treatment.  That said, there are some dentists who use that fact, and present even un-needed treatment.

There are also many gray areas in dentistry.  Some people believe that amalgams are bad and should be removed.  Some do it just for the money.  Some are probably instructed to do so by their boss or a corporate office.

Some offices do not have enough patients, but the bills still need to be paid.  Will you make up treatment on a patient when the day is slow in order to pay your bills?  Hopefully everybody says no, but everyone has a price. 

Yes your dentist salary is important, but hopefully you all remember that it is a privilege to treat your patients, and to treat them as you would want to be treated.

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