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The average dentist salary is $178,260, according to the most recent data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
But that may not represent how much dentists make. For example, the American Dental Association looks at a dentist's net income, which accounts for a practice's expenses as well. The ADA's most recent data lists the average net income among general dentists at $190,440.
No matter how you measure it, dentistry is one of the highest-paying professions. But it comes at a cost: The average dental school debt among class of 2019 dental school graduates with debt was $292,169.
» MORE: Best dental school loans
How much do dentists make?
The average net income for all dentists in 2018 was $220,950, according to the ADA. That number was higher among dental specialists ($330,180) and those running dental practices ($233,840). It was lower among dentists employed at a practice ($160,110).
Here is the average 2018 net income by dental specialty in private practice:
Oral and maxillofacial surgery: $420,020.
Orthodontics and dentofacial orthopedics: $353,790.
Of course, it may take some time to reach your full earning potential as a dentist. The ADA reports that the median net income of dental school graduates in their first year is $150,000.
Average dentist salary by state
The location of your dental practice can greatly impact your potential earnings. For example, the average salary of a general dentist in Rhode Island as of May 2019 was more than $130,000 greater than a general dentist in West Virginia, per the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Here are the states with the highest and lowest average dentist salaries:
Average Dentist Salary
Average Dentist Salary
You can view average dentist salary data for all states on the BLS website.
Paying off student debt on a dentist’s salary
Even if you're earning a six-figure dentist salary, student debt can be a drag on your finances. While lenders may have mortgages and small business loans that look past a dentist's debt-to-income ratio, for example, your monthly student loan bills could still hurt your cash flaw.
Plus, dental school loans could cost you tens of thousands of dollars in interest. An average debt balance of $292,169 with a 7% interest rate would accrue around $115,000 in interest over 10 years.
You could potentially free up additional cash, become debt-free faster and save on interest in the long run by refinancing to a lower interest rate. If you refinanced to a 5% rate from a 7% rate, you’d save more than $35,000 over 10 years.