All You Need To Know About A Dentist Career
You consider becoming a dentist but are not entirely sure whether this career path is right for you or not?
Stick with me since I will show you all you need to know about working as a dentist in the following article.
Not only will we talk about job satisfaction, educational requirements, job prospects and working hours, but I will also show you how much you can make as a dentist and much more.
At the end of this article, I will also provide you with an FAQ section where I answer various questions about a dentist career.
In turn, you will get a much better idea of whether a dentist career is for you or if you rather want to work in a different field instead.
What does a Dentist do?
Dentists examine the teeth of patients and make sure that everything is alright.
Not only will they remove caries, perform teeth extractions or do fillings, but they will also talk with patients about dental hygiene and how to prevent dental issues in the future.
Responsibilities & Duties of a Dentist
- Examining the teeth of patients
- Making sure that dental hygiene of patients is good enough
- Tooth extraction
- Diagnosing oral diseases
- Doing fillings
- Restoring the oral health of patients
- Using modern technologies to detect hidden oral health issues
- Monitoring the development of dental issues
- Consulting to prevent dental problems in the future
- Assuring that parents know how to deal with dental hygiene of kids
- Performance of dental surgeries
What a Typical Day of a Dentist looks like?
Most dentists start their workday between 7 and 9 a.m.
The first thing they do when they come to work is checking their schedule and making sure that they are able to do all the appointments and tasks without having to hurry and neglecting the needs of patients.
After doing some other organizational stuff, dentists get to the actual work of examining the teeth of their patients and taking proper measures to assure good dental health in the long run.
Not only will dentists have to focus on their work to get the best results, but they also often have to calm down patients who are afraid of dental treatment.
Hence, as a dentist, you need many different skills if you want to stay successful in the long run and want that your clients come back to your place.
You will also have to frequently coordinate yourself with your secretary to make sure that appointments in the future work out as planned.
After treating patients for many hours, you will usually finish your workday between 5 and 7 p.m.
Dentist Salary 2021
Dentist salary brackets 2021
|Salary Brackets||Salary (per year)||Salary (per hour)|
|Top 10 %||> $487,000||> $243.29|
|Top 25 %||$285,000 – $368,000||$142.31 – $183.82|
|Bottom 25 %||$156,000 – $174,000||$77.79 – $86.87|
|Bottom 10 %||$118,000 – $134,000||$58.92 – $66.88|
|Range||$118,000 – $584,000||$58.92 – $291.25|
Dentist salary 2021 by expert level
|Level of Experience||Salary (per year)||Salary (per hour)|
|Entry level||$118,000 – $138,000||$58.92 – $68.87|
|Junior||$139,000 – $187,000||$69.37 – $93.29|
|Professional||$188,000 – $223,000||$93.84 – $111.36|
|Senior Professional||$224,000 – $286,000||$111.89 – $142.93|
|Expert||$287,000 – $334,000||$143.41 – $166.88|
|Top Expert||$335,000 – $584,000||$167.38 – $291.83|
Dentist salary by state 2021 (average)
|State||Salary (per year)||Salary (per hour)|
|District of Columbia||$258,700||$129.28|
Job Security for Dentists
Dentists have pretty high job security.
In fact, there is a lack of qualified dentists in many states and since barriers to entry are pretty high and you have to spend many years on education, you will not have that much competition as a dentist and also don’t have to fear losing your job.
Future Job Prospects of Dentists
Dentists also have pretty decent future job prospects.
Dentists will always be needed and since an increasing number of people no longer sufficiently care about their dental hygiene, there will be an increasing number of dental issues in the future and dentists will be in high demand.
Working Hours of Dentists
Most dentists get to work between 7 and 9 a.m. and leave their workplace between 5 and 7 p.m.
However, if you have your own dental office, you will be even more flexible regarding when you want to start and end your workday and you may therefore work even fewer hours in the long run if leisure is more important than money to you.
Job Satisfaction of Dentists
Many dentists are pretty happy with what they do for a living.
Not only do they have a pretty decent balance between work and leisure, but dentists are also able to make a really good salary and can afford some luxury while still having enough time for their family.
Promotion Opportunities of Dentists
Promotion opportunities for dentists are rather limited.
While dentists will make more money once they get more experienced or even open their own dental practice, there are not many formal career steps you can take as a dentist.
Career Levels of Dentists
- Dentist intern
- Dental assistant
- Junior dentist
- Senior dentist
- Dentist who manages a dental practice
- Dentist who owns a dental office
- Dentist owning a network of dental offices
Fields and Types of Dentists
- General dentist
- Dentist specialized in oral surgeons
- Oral pathologist
- Pediatric dentist
- Dentists specialized in fillings
- Dentists specialized in dental hygiene
Educational Requirements for Dentists
Not only will you need an undergraduate degree, but you will also need to spend additional four years to get your DMD or DDS in dental school before you are allowed to work as a dentist. Hence, make sure that you are willing to spend almost one decade on your education and also to spend lots of money on education before you decide for becoming a dentist.
How to become a Dentist
- Inform yourself about the advantages and disadvantages of being a dentist
- Make sure that you have all character traits and skills needed
- Make sure that you are able to afford education related to becoming a dentist
- Get good grades in high school
- Apply at dentist schools
- Pass the admission test and get into dentist school
- Study hard and get your degree
- Get additional qualifications
- Start working as a dentist
- Open your own dental office (optional)
Character Traits you need as a Dentist
- Willingness to study hard
- You should believe in yourself to push through difficult times
- Willingness to spend almost a decade and lots of money on education
- Willingness to help your patients
- Empathy and compassion for patients
- Willingness to always stay up-to-date with modern technologies
- Ability to adjust to new situations all the time
- Willingness to deal with difficult patients
- Ambition to always learn and expand your knowledge
Hard Skills for Dentists
- Meeting extensive formal educational requirements
- Excellent knowledge of how to treat all sorts of dental issues
- Knowledge of legal issues related to dental work
- Knowledge of latest technologies to treat patients as efficiently as possible
- You should know what to do in case of emergency
- Good problem-solving skills
- You have to know how to minimize the pain of patients
- Ability to do things in a practical manner
- Ability to make decisions profoundly but quickly
- Dexterity helps to get things done in a proper manner
- Digital skills help to market your dental practice
Soft Skills for Dentists
- Ability to calm down patients
- You need to get patients to have trust in you
- Attention to detail helps avoid making mistakes
- Patience to deal with difficult clients
- Empathy for the needs and fears of patients
- You should stay relaxed under pressure
- Good communication skills
- Ability to explain complex issues in simple terms
- Good people skills
Exit Options for Dentists
Dentists don’t have any exit options at all.
Once they work in this field, dentists will often stay in their jobs forever since they are simply too specialized to work in a different field.
Hence, before becoming a dentist, make sure that this is what you really want to do for quite a long time.
Dentist – Similar Careers
- Dental assistant
- Dental hygienist
- Dental technician
- Laboratory technician
- Plastic surgeon
- Medical assistant
- Medical receptionist
- Dentist secretary
Dentist Career FAQs
Is working as a dentist physically demanding?
Working as a dentist is not heavily physically demanding.
While you have to stand for quite a long time to treat patients in a proper manner, you will also have times where you can just sit down and relax and compared to welders or construction workers who have to work in a really hard manner, you will have a rather relaxed time as a dentist in this regard.
Is working as a dentist mentally demanding?
Working as a dentist can be pretty demanding from a mental and emotional perspective.
Not only will you always have to figure out what’s wrong with your patients and detect hidden issues, but you will also have to deal with difficult people quite often and this can really stress your nerves.
Is it dangerous to work as a dentist?
Being a dentist is not that dangerous.
While you will work with some machines and equipment that can be potentially risky and patients who carry diseases may bite you, you will still have relatively low risk at work compared to many other people out there who have to operate heavy machines.
How long do dentists stay in their jobs?
Dentists stay in their jobs for quite a long time.
This is due to the fact that most dentists are pretty happy with their overall working conditions but also since dentists are pretty specialized and it would be pretty hard for them to find a job in a different field that pays close to what they make right now.
Is it easy for dentists to find a new job?
It is pretty easy for dentists to find a new job in many states and regions.
In fact, there is a significant shortage of qualified dentists and since it will take quite long to be able to work in this field, you will have pretty good job security for many years or even decades.
Is it hard to switch from being a dentist to another field of work?
While dentists have excellent career prospects while they are working in their field, dentists have a pretty hard time finding a job in a different field since they are simply too specialized and don’t have the skills needed in different industries.
Do dentists have a high social status?
Dentists have a pretty high social status.
In fact, many people out there admire dentists and want to be like them. In turn, by becoming a dentist, you can be sure to have a high social reputation and that you don’t have to justify yourself in your circle of friends for your career choice.
Can you help out your family and friends as a dentist?
As a dentist, you can also help out your family and friends quite a lot.
In case of dental issues, your loved ones can just come to your office and get proper treatment without having to wait for an appointment and you can also treat them for a much lower cost compared to what other dentists would charge.
Can dentists work remotely?
Dentists are not able to work remotely most of the time.
While pure consulting may be done remotely in the near future, you still have to do the actual work in person and this means that you will always have to commute to work and back which will cost you lots of time and money in the long run.
Is it easy to find a partner as a dentist?
Since dentists have a pretty high social standing and also a high stable income, it is pretty easy for dentists to find a partner for a long-term relationship since they are just pretty good providers and will therefore have an easy time in the dating market and almost freedom of choice in this regard.
Do dentists have to work on weekends?
Most dentists don’t have to work on weekends.
Especially in case you have your own dental practice, you can decide for yourself whether you want to work on weekends to make some extra money or if you rather want to spend your time on other things instead.
Do dentists have to work on holidays?
Dentists also don’t have to work on holidays.
Instead, you can spend those days with your favorite people or also make some nice hiking trips or other things you like even more than working.
Do dentists have to work at nighttime?
Dentists don’t have to work at nighttime.
Instead, you will have a pretty standard workday and will often start your workday in the morning and come home from work in the late afternoon or early evening.
Thus, you will have enough time to meet up with your favorite people after work.
Do you have to travel as a dentist?
You don’t have to travel as a dentist.
Instead, you will just commute to the same dental office every day and while other people who work in office jobs often have to do business trips and will be away from home quite often, you as a dentist can rather spend your leisure at home with your family.
Are dentist pensions good?
Since dentists make quite a lot of money, also their pensions are much higher compared to the average person.
Moreover, dentists are also able to save and invest lots of money and will therefore not have to struggle financially once they get to retirement age.
Are dentist salaries going up?
Dentist salaries have been going up over the past years and due to the shortage of qualified dentists in many regions, chances are that this trend will also continue in the future since the higher the demand for dental treatment and the lower the number of qualified dentists, the higher the wages of dentists in the long run.
Can you have a positive effect on society as a dentist?
As a dentist, you will also play a pretty important role in society.
In fact, without dentists, people would often suffer from toothaches and would no longer be able to enjoy their leisure.
Moreover, also their productivity at work would decrease significantly and you will therefore play an important role in maintaining our high living standards as a dentist.
How long does it take to become a dentist?
Since you will have to get many years of education, it will take most people between 7 and 10 years before they are able to work as a dentist.
Hence, make sure that you are willing to spend that much time and money on education and that you want to work in this field for quite a long time to make it worth the investment.
Is it difficult to become a dentist?
Since you will have to spend lots of time on education and also have to pass many exams, becoming a dentist is pretty demanding and if you are not really passionate about your career goal, you may just quit sooner or later and may strive for something less challenging.
Do you need to be smart to work as a dentist?
While you don’t need to be a genius for becoming a dentist, you should still be relatively smart to pass all the exams needed to finally be able to work in this field.
Hence, you should not strive for a dentistry career if your mental capabilities are relatively limited since you would most likely never pass all of your exams.
Do dentists have a good work-life balance?
Dentists have a pretty solid work-life balance since they don’t have to work at nighttime and also don’t have to work on weekends.
Moreover, if you have your own dental practice, you can also decide for yourself how much you want to work and whether you want to work extra hours and make decent extra money or if you rather want to spend more leisure with your family.
Do dentists have to work many extra hours?
Dentists don’t have to work many extra hours.
Instead, they have rather fixed opening hours and will therefore know when they have to get to work and when they will be able to leave their practice and this makes it easy for dentists to make plans for the evening.
How to maximize your chances of becoming a dentist?
If you really want to maximize your chances of becoming a dentist, you should invest all your time studying hard to get good grades and to pass your exams.
In fact, formal education is the number one tool that will get you your dream job as a dentist while practical experience will be of minor importance most often.
Can dentists work part-time?
Dentists are also able to work part-time in theory.
However, especially if you have your own dental office, you will often have to work full-time to coordinate your staff and also to be there for your patients.
Do dentists work indoors or outdoors?
Dentists work indoors and don’t have to care about weather conditions outdoors while many other people who have to work outdoors will sweat in summer and freeze in winter.
Hence, you will have a pretty relaxed time in this regard as a dentist.
What does the workplace of a dentist look like?
As a dentist, you will work with lots of equipment and you will also use modern technologies to treat your patients in the best possible manner.
This trend will continue in the future since your technological progress is unstoppable and machines will do a higher percentage of the overall work in the future.
Do you have to look good for working as a dentist?
You don’t have to look good as a dentist.
However, you should still look groomed so that patients don’t lose trust in you and will come back for quite a long time.
Always remember that you represent your practice and the more groomed you look, the better the reputation of your dental office will be.
In turn, you will have more patients compared to someone who has similar qualifications but doesn’t care about his or her looks at all.
Is a dentist career beneficial for your private life?
Working as a dentist can be pretty beneficial for your private life.
Since you will make really good money and will also have a solid balance between work and leisure, chances are that your private life will work out quite well and that you will be able to maintain your marriage for quite a while since your partner will have barely incentive to cheat on you.
Do you need a college degree for becoming a dentist?
You will not only need an undergraduate degree for becoming a dentist, but you will also need to get many years of additional education in most states.
In turn, you will have to spend between 7 and 10 years on education before you are finally allowed to work as a dentist.
Do you need to be certified to work as a dentist?
While you often don’t need a certificate, you will need a license for working as a dentist.
Depending on the state, it can be really tough to get this license since you will have to meet numerous formal requirements.
How much does it cost to become a dentist?
Since you will have to spend many years on education, it will also cost you quite a lot to become a dentist.
In fact, many dentists have to pay back six-figure college loans and you should therefore make sure that you really want to work in this field for decades to make it worth the investment.
Is being a dentist a good career?
Being a dentist can be considered a pretty good career.
Since dentists can make pretty good money and also have enough leisure, most of them are pretty happy with their job and barely any dentist complains about overall working conditions.
Is it easy to start your own business as a dentist?
Once you are allowed to work as a dentist, it will also be relatively easy to start your own dental office.
While this may involve high upfront costs, you can also make significantly more money than an employed dentist and will be able to pay back those initial costs pretty soon.
Can dentists teach themselves?
Dentists are not able to teach themselves.
While they still learn skills on the job, you will have to get many years of formal education before you are finally allowed to work as a dentist and learning things by yourself will simply not be enough to work in this field.
Do dentists make good money?
Dentists make pretty good money.
Most dentists earn six-figure salaries and you can therefore earn much more as a dentist than most other people out there will ever make.
In turn, you will also be able to afford many nice things and will not have to worry about money that much.
Is it ever too late to become a dentist?
Since it will take you quite a long time to become a dentist and dentist education is also pretty expensive, you should not become a dentist if you are already in your 40s or 50s since it will just not be worth the initial investment and you may also not have the energy to pull it off at this rather old age.
Do dentists have to quit their careers early?
Most dentists don’t have to quit their careers early.
Since the job of dentists is not heavily physically demanding, most of them can work until they reach retirement age and will not have to give up their jobs anytime soon.
What is the most challenging thing about working as a dentist?
The most challenging part about being a dentist is that not issues will be visible with your bare eye and you will have to use your brain to figure out what’s the cause of your patients’ pain.
This can be really challenging and you should not underestimate how difficult it can be to solve those issues while patients are often impatient at the same time and want to see results quickly.
Can you provide for your family by working as a dentist?
Since dentists make pretty good money, you will have an easy time providing for your family.
In fact, if you spend your money wisely and don’t spend everything on useless consumption but rather invest part of your income, you will be able to afford a pretty decent lifestyle as a dentist while your partner doesn’t even have to work but can rather look after the kids.
Will dentists suffer from old-age poverty?
Thanks to the high salary, dentists don’t have to worry about old-age poverty.
Instead, they will have pretty good pensions and are also able to save and invest enough money during their active careers to benefit from the returns during retirement age.
Can dentists retire early?
Dentists are often able to retire early.
In fact, they make so much money that they will have saved enough money in their 50s.
Hence, it will be your own decision whether you still want to work at this age to be there for your patients or if you rather want to quit your job or retire early.
Do dentists get a fixed or variable salary?
Dentists get a fixed salary most of the time.
However, once you own a dental practice, your income will still greatly depend on your performance and the more patients you treat, the more money you will make.
Can you get rich as a dentist?
While most dentists will become wealthy and will be able to afford a fancy lifestyle, it is hard to get really rich a dentist.
In fact, not many dentists will be able to live a life full of luxury and will still have to care about money so that they don’t overextend themselves.
Do dentists need a second job?
Thanks to their good salary, dentists don’t need a second job.
Instead of working a second job, you can rather enjoy your leisure with your family or by just meeting up with your favorite people.
Do you get continuous training as a dentist?
While you will get lots of education before you are allowed to work as a dentist, you will no longer get that much training once you are working in your job.
If you really want to learn and stay ahead of the game, you have to invest lots of your leisure in additional education.
Do you get paid when you are sick as a dentist?
Since many dentists work self-employed, they also don’t make money during times they are sick.
Consequently, you should have an emergency fund you can use for times you get sick and are not able to work and make an income.
Do dentists have a high level of responsibility?
Dentists have a pretty high level of responsibility since they have to treat many patients every day and mistakes on their side can lead to serious adverse results and may also put the lives of patients on the line, especially during dental surgeries.
Can dentists work abroad?
While dentists are able to work abroad, there are still many different educational requirements in foreign countries and you can never be sure whether your qualifications will be enough to practice in a different country.
Consequently, you might have to go back to school if you migrate to another country where you don’t meet formal requirements yet.
Is it stressful to work as a dentist?
Working as a dentist can be pretty stressful, especially if you want to make really good money and have to treat patients at scale.
Moreover, many patients will also complain and this can lead to lots of emotional pressure.
Is it boring to work as a dentist?
Working as a dentist will barely become boring since you will have to do many different things every day and you will often also have to solve complex problems that need lots of brainpower.
In turn, you will often just don’t have any time to feel bored at work as a dentist.
Is being a dentist hard?
Working as a dentist can be pretty hard since you will have to deal with a high level of emotional pressure and you may even get sued in case of mistakes.
Consequently, you may always have a bad feeling at work and if you are a rather sensitive person, these things can really bring you down in the long run.
Are dentists at risk of burnout?
Most dentists are at rather low risk of burnout.
While working as a dentist can be stressful, there is still enough time to rest and if you have a strong mental mindset and are able to put things into perspective while you are still passionate about your work, it will be pretty unlikely that you burn out even though there is always a residual risk.
Is there a dress code for dentists?
Even though there is no formal requirement to comply with a certain dress code, most dentists wear pretty similar clothes and if you work as an employed dentist, you will be most likely required to comply with the dress code in the respective dental practice.
What kind of dentists are paid the most?
The longer you work as a dentist and the more patients you are able to treat, the higher your income will be as a dentist.
Hence, the more you work, the more you will make.
Moreover, the more complex the field you specialize in and the fewer people can do your work, the more you will be able to charge for your services.
What percentage of dentists are women?
While around two-thirds of all dentists are men, one-third of dentists are women.
However, while there are still more men working in this field, there is a trend of an increasing number of women becoming dentists and this trend will likely continue in the future.
Do I need a mentor to succeed as a dentist?
You don’t need a mentor to succeed as a dentist. Instead, you need to study hard and spend lots of time on your craft.
Only if you work hard, you will be able to become a real expert in your field who will be admired by many people out there.
Will you be personally liable for mistakes as a dentist?
If you have your own dental practice, you will often also be personally liable for mistakes you make as a dentist.
Hence, you should get proper insurance so that you are covered in case of emergency.
Do dentists have a high life expectancy?
Since dentists earn quite a lot of money and are able to afford high-quality medical treatment in case they get sick, dentists also have a pretty high life expectancy.
Moreover, since they don’t have to work at nighttime, dentists are also able to get enough sleep which makes it less likely to develop serious health issues.
Do dentists suffer from sleeping problems?
Since dentists have a pretty standard workweek and don’t have to work in the evening or at nighttime, most dentists are able to sleep well and to maintain a stable sleeping rhythm.
In turn, they will have more power during the day compared to someone who has to deal with sleeping problems quite often.
What states are best for working as a dentist?
If you really want to make the most money as a dentist, you should work in California or New York since people in those states make the highest average income and will therefore also be able to pay lots of money for proper medical treatment.
Who do dentists work with?
Dentists work with many different patients every day.
Hence, you should be an open person who loves to talk to strangers if you want to succeed as a dentist in the long run since building relationships is crucial for succeeding in this field.
Is working as a dentist cool?
Working as a dentist is not considered cool by most young people.
Thus, even though you might have a high social standing in society, you may still have to deal with snarky comments about your job from time to time.
Can you start a side hustle as a dentist?
It is pretty hard to start a side hustle as a dentist since you will have to focus on managing your dental office and there will just not be that much time left for doing something else.
Moreover, you will also be pretty specialized and starting a side hustle related to your day job may be pretty hard.
Do you have to be creative as a dentist?
While you don’t have to be creative for working as a dentist, a certain level of creativity can still help you figure out what your patients suffer from so that you can treat them properly and relieve them from toothaches as soon as possible.
How employable are dentists?
Dentists are pretty employable.
In fact, there is a shortage of dentists in many states and if you are really good at what you are doing, chances are that you will have excellent job prospects in the future.
Are dentists happy with their jobs?
Most dentists are pretty happy with their jobs since they make good money while they still have enough time to spend with their family or on their hobbies.
Is working as a dentist exciting?
Working as a dentist is not that exciting.
While it can be interesting, you will still lose your initial excitement pretty soon.
What are the pros and cons of working as a dentist?
If you are still not sure whether you should become a dentist or not, you may also want to check out additional pros and cons of being a dentist.
Interviews and own research.
About the author
My name is Andreas and my mission is to educate people about the different career paths that are possible in our current state of the world. In my opinion, people often make the mistake to choose their profession solely based on how much money they can earn from it instead of doing what makes them really happy.
This is quite sad and I just want to give people a more objective picture of how a fulfilling career could look like. I did the same when I started working in consulting after finishing my Master’s degree in Economics. However, I’ve quit pretty soon after that since I haven’t found true meaning in my job.
Now I can do what I really love to do and I want to enable as many other people as well to go this exciting path towards happiness instead of money.
I conducted various interviews with employees to give you a good impression of what working in different fields will look like and that you can make the best possible decision regarding your future career choice.
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