Dental Profession Outlook

by Patricia O. Urquiaga | Feb 22, 2021 | DentalIndustry, DentalJobOpportunities, DentalLicensure, DentalPractice, DentalProfession, DentalServices, DentalStaffing, Dentist, Dentistry, DentistSpecialties
Dental Profession Outlook

Dentistry was named the second-best profession by the U.S. News & World Report in 2020. This was a jump from fourth place in 2019.

In fact, two other oral health professionals also made last year’s list. Orthodontists came in at fourth place and oral and maxillofacial surgeons in ninth place.

But what does this mean for the dental profession outlook?

Determining the state of the dental profession outlook depends on several factors. First, we need to understand the current dental profession job growth projections. Before breaking this down, lets quickly recap who are dentist, what they do, how to become a dentist and the various dental specialties available.

What Do Dentists Do?

Dentists are physicians who specialize in oral health. Their daily duties include performing visual examinations sometimes with x-rays to diagnose and treat diseases of the teeth and gums. At times, dentists perform surgery on the teeth, bones and mouth. Dentists are trained to assess the muscle and nerves of the neck, head, salivary glands, tongue, and jaw. They can quickly detect abnormalities in the mouth that are symptomatic of disease elsewhere in the body.

Becoming A Dentist

Compared to traditional physicians, dentists don’t go to medical school. Instead, they complete a post-baccalaureate program at a college of dentistry. Upon graduation, a dentist will receive either the Doctor of Dental Surgery (D.D.S) or the Doctor of Medical Dentists (D.M.D) degree. One major difference between dentists and physicians is that dentists are legally allowed to practice right out of school vs. physicians who must complete additional years of training before seeing actual patients.

With either degree, dentists must get licensed in the state in which they intend to practice dentistry. The licensure process and requirements vary by state; however, all applicants must meet three basic requirements: education, written examination and clinical examination. For dental board information as well as licensure requirements by state, visit the American Dental Association’s initial licensure requirements by state map.

The 12 Dental Specialties

After obtaining licensure, dentists can practice as general dentist, or they can pursue a residency in any of the 12 dental specialties.

Dental residencies are supervised and are generally an additional 2 years of study. Unless specializing in oral surgery, which is an additional 4-6 years of study. Here is a brief description of each of the 12 dental specialties:

  • Dental Anesthesiologist: Have a deep understanding of anesthesia. They provide anesthesia to patients (all ages) including special needs to help manage pain and anxiety during dental, oral, maxillofacial and adjunctive surgical or diagnostic procedures throughout the entire perioperative period.
  • Dental Public Health Specialist: Specialize in preventing and controlling dental diseases by promoting dental health and educating the public through organized community efforts.
  • Endodontists: Specialize in the morphology, physiology and pathology of the human dental pulp and periradicular tissues. They are experts in tooth pain, disease and infection. Endodontists have the ability to perform root canals to save and infected or decayed tooth.
  • Oral and Maxillofacial Pathologist: Specialize in the nature, identification, and management of diseases affecting the oral and maxillofacial regions.
  • Oral and Maxillofacial Radiologist: Focus on the production and interpretation of images and data produced by all modalities of radiant energy that are used for the diagnosis and management of diseases, disorders and conditions of the oral and maxillofacial region.
  • Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeon: Specialize in the diagnosis, surgical and adjunctive treatment of diseases, injuries and defects involving the functional and esthetic aspects of the hard and soft tissues of the oral and maxillofacial region.
  • Oral Medicine Specialist:Are responsible for the oral health care of medically complex patients including the diagnosis and management of medically related diseases, disorders and conditions affecting the oral and maxillofacial region.
  • Orofacial Pain Specialist:Specialize in the diagnosis, management and treatment of pain disorders of the jaw, mouth, face, head and neck.
  • Orthodontics: Specialize in the diagnosis, prevention, interception and correction of malocclusion, neuromuscular and skeletal abnormalities of the developing or mature orofacial structures.
  • Pedodontics: Also known as pediatric dentistry, specializes in the diagnosis and treatment of dental problems in children from infancy to adolescence plus special needs patients.
  • Periodontics: Specialize in the prevention, diagnosis, and treatment of periodontal disease (including oral inflammation) and in the placement of dental implants.
  • Prosthodontics: Specialize in the diagnosis, treatment planning, rehabilitation and maintenance of the oral function, comfort, appearance and health of patients with clinical conditions associated with missing or deficient teeth and/or oral maxillofacial tissues using biocompatible substitutes.

Work Environment and Annual Salary

Dentists tend to work for established dental practices, dental practices with other partners or as self-employed (own practice with small staff). In 2019, 74% of dentists reported working for dental practices while 15% reported being self-employed.

Dentists work schedules tend to vary – most work less than 40 hours per week while others might work more including nights and weekends.

The annual salary of a dentist varies depending on geographic location, dental specialty, years of experience, board certification and number of hours worked.

According to the American Dental Association, the average net income for dentists in private practice in 2019 was $204,710 – and $343,410 for dental specialists.

Dental Profession Job Outlook

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the dental profession is expected to grow 3% from 2019 to 2029.

The demand for dental services is also expected to increase for two main reasons.

One, the current population is aging. The aging baby boomers grew up learning about fluoride and preventative dentistry. They have also been educated on the various types of dental services needed in order to maintain good oral health and hygiene. Therefore, as they get older, they will continue to seek dental work, which overtime will get more complicated as the risk of oral cancer increases significantly with age.

Two, research has linked oral health to your overall health. Oral health is more important than you think. Maintaining good oral health keeps bacteria that is formed in your mouth under control. However, without proper oral hygiene, bacteria can cause disease, oral infections and inflammation. Therefore, dentists will need to continue to promote good oral hygiene vs. just providing treatments.

In 2019, dentists held about 151,600 jobs in the U.S. The breakdown was as follows:

  • Dentists (general) 132,100
  • Orthodontists 7,200
  • Dentists (all other specialties) 6,200
  • Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeons 5,600
  • Prosthodontists 600

When it comes to the supply of dentists, dentists are primarily concentrated in California, Texas and New York. Here is a breakdown of the dentist job market by state:

  • California 17,130
  • Texas 8,350
  • New York 8,340
  • Florida 6,590
  • Illinois 4,630
  • Michigan 4,060
  • New Jersey 3,880
  • Pennsylvania 3,780
  • Massachusetts 3,330
  • North Carolina 3,230
  • Ohio 3,210
  • Virginia 2,980
  • Georgia 2,780
  • Arizona 2,620
  • Maryland 2,560
  • Washington 2,320
  • Wisconsin 2,040
  • Colorado 1,930
  • Indiana 1,710
  • Minnesota 1,620
  • Oregon 1,600
  • Missouri 1,510
  • South Carolina 1,410
  • Tennessee 1,390
  • Utah 1,260
  • Connecticut 1,200
  • Nevada 1,170
  • Oklahoma 1,130
  • Iowa 1,100
  • Kansas 1,090
  • Alabama 1,010
  • Kentucky 960
  • Louisiana 750
  • Arkansas 750
  • New Mexico 710
  • Hawaii 700
  • Nebraska 660
  • Mississippi 640
  • New Hampshire 510
  • Maine 500
  • West Virginia 490
  • Montana 460
  • Delaware 380
  • Idaho 310
  • District of Columbia 290
  • South Dakota 270
  • Wyoming 240
  • Rhode Island 230
  • North Dakota 200
  • Alaska 200
  • Vermont 170
  • Puerto Rico 160

As you can see the dental profession outlook is very promising regardless of a worldwide pandemic.

As the demand continues to rise for dentists, considering a dental specialty might even be worth pursuing as this can increase your income by approximately 50%.

To immerse yourself more in the dental industry, take a look at our dental staffing guide.

For dental job opportunities or dental staffing assistance, connect with one of our healthcare recruiters today.


One of our specialist will reach out to you.