A peer-reviewed journal that offers evidence-based clinical information and continuing education for dentists.

States Where Dentists Earn the Most

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics compiles wage data on more than 800 professions, including the dental field.


The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics compiles wage data on more than 800 professions, including the dental field. According to its latest statistics, the national mean salary for dentists is $174,110.1 This is about $10,000 less than the wages for the same year compiled by the American Dental Association’s (ADA) Survey of Dental Practice,2 which may indicate the ADA survey respondents tend to be slightly more well heeled.

While the ADA does not break down its survey data by state, the Bureau of Labor Statistics does. The data show that Alaska, which is one of the states with the highest cost of living,3 ranks third among all states for dentist salaries. A little further down the coast, California is the second most expensive state in terms of cost of living, but its mean wage for dentists is among the lowest.Dentist earnings

The upshot is that oral health professionals should carefully consider cost of living when deciding where to set up a practice or accept employment because income for dentists does not always correlate with cost of living. Along with researching taxes and other financial considerations, dentists can use the free Council for Community and Economic Research cost of living calculator at coli.org to compare income of where they are now with where they are considering relocating. Armed with this information, they can determine how much their actual purchasing power may increase by practicing in a new state.


  1. U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Occupational Employment and Wages, May 2017: 29-1021 Dentists, General. Available at: http/​:/​/​www.bls.gov/​oes/​2017/​may/​oes291021.htm. Accessed December 17, 2019.
  2. American Dental Association Health Policy Institute. Income, Gross Billings, and Expenses: Selected 2018 Results from the Survey of Dental Practice: Table 2: Median Annual Net Income of Dentists in Private Practice, 1990–2018. Available at: https:/​/​www.ada.org/​en/​science-research/​health-policy-institute/​dental-statistics/​income-billing-and-other-dentistry-statistics. Accessed December 17, 2019.
  3. Cohen S. The most expensive places to live in America. CNBC. July 10, 2018. Available at: https:/​/​www.cnbc.com/​2018/​06/​28/​these-are-americas-most-expensive-states-to-live-in-for-2018.html. Accessed December 17, 2019.

From Decisions in Dentistry. January 2020;6(1):46.

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