Dentistry is one of the highest-paying careers in the health care field and there are different specialties one can pursue. The specialties require different levels of training and some pay better than others.
That’s why is important to know the different dental specialties and their respective education requirements, average annual salaries as well as career growth potential.
General dentistry will earn you a decent income, but you can make 50% more if you specialize. Specialization also means more years of training; four years for an undergraduate degree, 3 years for a dental degree (DMD or DDS), and at least 2 to 4 years of specialized training.
The income is also dependent on the location and whether or not you are self-practicing. Self-practice usually generates more revenue than being employed.
What are the highest-paying dental specialties?
As noted above, different dental specialties have varying academic requirements and pay differently too. Some of the highest-paying dental careers include:
1. Oral and maxillofacial surgeon
This is the highest-paid dental specialty. It involves surgery and treatment of diseases, injuries, and defects of the jaw, face, neck, head, and other maxillofacial structures. It also deals with oral cancers, cleft palate, impacted teeth, and other facial traumas.
The oral and maxillofacial surgeon specialty program takes an additional 4-6 years on top of a dental degree course. Some get an M.D. to increase their chances of getting the highest-paying jobs for dentists, while others go into private practice.
Endodontists study and treat dental pulp and infected and injured teeth. They deal with tooth pain, infection, and diseases to save people’s natural teeth through procedures such as pulp therapy and root canals.
The endodontic specialty program takes 2-3 years beyond the dental school. The average salary for endodontists in the United States of America is $229,066 per year with the potential to earn more in private practice.
3. Pediatric Dentistry
A pediatric dentist is one of the highest-paying dental specialties in the United States. Also known as pedodontics, they specialize in diagnosing and treating dental problems in children and other special needs patients.
This career is ideal for people who naturally love helping kids and are looking for high-paying careers working with kids. The pediatric dentist specialty program takes an additional 2-3 years after the dental degree course.
The average salary for pedodontics in the United States of America is $209,039 per year.
4. Orthodontics and Dentofacial Orthopedics
Orthodontics and dentofacial orthopedics deal with the prevention, diagnosis, interception, and correction of teeth and bite disorders. They perform procedures such as brace installation to correct the placement and appearance of the teeth.
Apart from being one of the highest-paying dental careers, orthodontics and dentofacial orthopedics were named the 4th best profession in 2020.
After earning a dental degree, you will need an additional 2-3 years to complete the orthodontics and dentofacial orthopedics specialty program.
Expect an average salary of $200,515 upon securing a job.
Prosthodontist specialty deals with constructing and fitting prosthetic devices like implants, bridges, dentures, and crowns.
Prosthodontists also diagnose and treat other jaw and teeth disorders such as bite troubles to improve the function of the mouth, such as the ability to chew and speak.
After acquiring a dental degree, you will need additional 3 years to complete the specialty program. The potential average salary for prosthodontists in the United States of America is $180,000 and the highest earners get $250,000 per year.
Periodontics doesn’t deal directly with teeth, instead, they focus on diagnosing and treating systems that surround them, such as gums and bones. They treat periodontal diseases and also repair dental implants.
Training in the periodontics specialty program takes 3 years beyond the dental school, with a potential average salary of $155,955 per year once you land a job.
7. Public health dentistry
Public health dentistry focuses on non-clinical ways of preventing oral diseases in a larger population. For instance, they may suggest fluoridation of water to reduce or prevent tooth decay among people. They also educate the public and clinicians on oral health promotion strategies.
Qualifying graduates from dental school will have to undertake a 2-year program to acquire a certificate in dental public health.
It is of the best-paying dental specialties with the average pay being $146,469 per year in the United States of America.
Here’s a list of ten ADA-recognized dental specialties you can consider. Credit: Mental Dental.
FAQs about dental careers
Let’s now have a look at a few frequently asked questions relating to dental careers.
Which skills do you need in the highest-paid dental specialties?
Highest-paid dental specialists should have excellent clinical, soft, hard, and technical skills to remain competitive in the market. Such skills include:
Dentists in any specialty require problem-solving skills to analyze, diagnose, and treat patients’ conditions. The skill helps them come up with productive solutions to improve the oral health of their patients.
b). Communication and interpersonal skills
In almost all professions, communication and interpersonal skills are needed, and dentistry is no exception. The dental specialist needs the skills to communicate and work effectively with patients, dentists, and other healthcare experts.
They need to explain procedures and recommended oral care to patients as well as effectively listen to them. Generally, they need to relate well with their patients and the organization’s team members.
c). Attention to details
Every dental specialist requires attention to detail skills to evaluate and treat patients by keenly observing and tracking their health information. As a result, they can accurately diagnose oral diseases and come up with appropriate treatment plans.
d). Practical business skills
Most dental specialists who earn high pay engage in private practice and therefore need practical business skills to become successful entrepreneurs. As business owners, dentists need to understand the essentials of their ventures, such as expenses, staffing, marketing, and customer servicing.
e). Technical skills
Dental is a technical medical field that requires specialized skills to succeed. Dental specialists use technical knowledge and skills to diagnose, treat and even perform surgeries on patients.
Dental specialists use different tools to diagnose and treat oral health issues, and as such, they need strong dexterity skills to maintain a steady hand during procedures.
What is the job growth projection for the highest-paying dental specialties?
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), dental job opportunities are projected to grow by 8% from 2020 to 2030, almost the same as the average growth for all occupations.
This translates to about 5,000 employment openings each year over a decade. The openings are projected to arise mostly as a result of attrition of workers and increased demand due to older patients requiring dental services.
The current and upcoming generation is also expected to be more conscious of oral health. This will increase the demand for advanced dental services such as dental bridges and implants, resulting in job growth.
What is the best specialization in dentistry?
The best specialization to pursue in dentistry depends on your interest since all of them generally have good pay.
However, if you want one of the highest-paying dental specialties, then consider pursuing oral and maxillofacial surgery.
It is the highest-paid specialization with a median annual pay of $231,276 and the potential to earn more in private practice.
Who makes more money, the dentist or a doctor?
Many factors such as location and experience play a role in how much dentists or doctors make annually. However, in the U.S., physicians earn an average pay of $174,843 per year which is higher than that of general dentists, who earn an average yearly income of $146,469.
However, dentists who pursue dental specialty courses such as oral and maxillofacial surgery, endodontics, pediatric dentistry, orthodontics, dentofacial orthopedics, prosthodontists, and periodontics earn more than doctors.
What is the highest-paying dental assistant job?
Dental assistants are an indispensable part of every dental specialty as they offer assistance during oral exams and procedures.
Their responsibilities may include processing X-rays, preparing, sterilizing, and cleaning equipment, and administrative tasks such as updating patients’ records and scheduling appointments.
The dental assistants earn a decent average pay of $70,687 per year, which may vary depending on the skills one possesses.
Which are the highest-paying dental assistant jobs based on skills:
a). Dental assistant with team leadership skills: These are dental assistants who possess exceptional leadership skills and earn an average hourly pay of $20.23.
b). Certified dental assistant with radiology skills: These dental assistants earn an average hourly pay of $19.16.
c). Dental assistant with patient education skills: These dental aides earn an average hourly pay of $20.05.
d). Dental assistants with scheduling skills: The average hourly pay of these dental assistants is $18.49.
e). Certified dental assistant with oral surgery skills: Oral surgeons are the highest-paid dental specialist, and as such, their assistants are equally paid well. Their average hourly pay is $20.26.
Dentistry is one of the medical fields that will earn you a decent salary. However, if you want to increase your income, consider pursuing specialty programs beyond dental school.
Most of them pay well, with the highest-paying dental specialty being oral and maxillofacial surgery.
However, salary is not the only motivation, and you should also consider your interest before deciding on the best specialization. Note that most programs will require additional 2-3 years after completing a dental degree.