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Average Dentist Salary: How Much Do Dentists Make?

Dentistry is one of the highest-paying professions, but it often comes at the cost of deep student loan debt.
April 10, 2019
Loans, Student Loans
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How much do dentists make? The average net income among dentists in 2017 was $224,090, according to data from the American Dental Association. That number is higher among dentists who choose to specialize or who open their own practice.

Dentistry is one of the highest-paying professions, according to the U.S. Department of Labor. But it comes at a cost: The average dental school debt among class of 2018 dental school graduates with debt was $285,184.

Of course, you may take some time to reach your full earning potential as a dentist — especially if you do a residency. Some dental residency programs charge tuition, and the average salary for dental residents is $56,000 annually, according to the job site Glassdoor.

» MORE: 5 dental school loan repayment strategies

How much do dentists make?

The average net income for dentists in 2017 was higher among dental specialists ($320,990) and dentists who owned their own practices ($244,980), according to the ADA data. It was lower among general practitioners ($197,190) and dentists who were employed at a practice ($147,950).

Average 2017 net income by specialty in private practice:

  • Oral and maxillofacial surgery: $448,140.
  • Endodontics: $307,460.
  • Orthodontics and dentofacial orthopedics: $289,190.
  • Pediatrics: $304,280.
  • Periodontics: $330,690.
  • Prosthodontics: $219,950.

» MORE: 8 dental school debt forgiveness programs

Paying off student debt on a dentist’s salary

Even with a dentist’s salary, dental school debt can be a drag on your finances. For one thing, it raises your debt-to-income ratio, which could make it difficult to qualify for a mortgage.

You could free up additional cash, become debt-free faster and save on interest by refinancing to a lower interest rate.

It could also cost you tens of thousands of dollars in interest over the life of your loan. An average debt balance of $285,184 with a 7% interest rate would accrue around $112,000 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 $34,000 over 10 years.

But refinancing dental school loans isn’t right for everyone. You give up government loan benefits like income-driven repayment when you refinance federal student loans.

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