Top Dental Specialties aren’t just for show – they can help you achieve the winning smile you’ve always wanted. Whether it’s an implant, orthodontics or periodontics, these specialized fields of dentistry can offer a variety of solutions to oral health problems. But how do you know which one is right for you? With so many options available, it’s worth doing some research to get the best outcome possible. So don’t hesitate – start exploring today and find the dental specialty that fits your needs!
Hi everyone, it’s Dr. Marina Shraga.
A couple of weeks ago on my Instagram, I asked you all if you’re interested in and became a specialist or a general dentist. And I was really surprised with the number of people that really want to go into specialty programs. So I think it was about like 64% people that wanted to become specialists and asked you all which specialties you’re interested in. And there are the three top ones that everyone seems to just want to be, which is orthodontist, pediatric dentist and oral and maxillofacial surgeon. So I’m going to be going down the list of nine different dental specialties, and I order them by how popular they are, as in how like the most applicants and the least applicants.
And all the data that I got was from the 2021 to 2022 survey of advanced dentistry, which you can find on the Ada website.
Dentistry is a high-paying profession with great potential for growth. As the population ages, dentists will be needed to provide dental care that sustains healthy teeth and gums. In fact, as of 2020 there were only 50% more practicing general dentists than in 2010 according to the U.S Department of Labor’s Occupational Outlook Handbook. This includes specialists who work on crowns, fillings, and tooth extractions among other procedures. With so many people seeking out this career path, it can be difficult to decide which specialty best suits you. We are here today with some information about the highest-paying jobs in dentistry so you know where your future might lie!
The annual salary for a general dentist ranges between $151,000 and $205,000 according to the U.S Department of Labor’s Occupational Outlook Handbook with an average income of around $168,000. This is because more than half of dentists are in private practice which offers higher salaries as well as some benefits not offered by public or academic jobs. These include better hours (i.e., no night shifts) and holidays off work!
Moving on from our discussion about general dentistry we now turn our attention to orthodontics – one of the many specialties within this field that can be rewarding financially speaking but also personally fulfilling too! Orthodontic specialists must complete four years of dental school and three more years in a fellowship program. You can choose to work in an academic setting or as part of private practice but you will need to take your state’s examination before being licensed!
Orthodontics, as you know, everyone knows deals with braces, a lot of people are having braces. So that’s why they want to become more dentists. I guess. I think according to the 2020 to 2021 data had 11,279 applicants and 393 applicants were accepted, which means it has a 3.5% acceptance rate and the orthodontics program is a two to a three-year program.
They’re also among the better-paid dental practitioners, making, on average, $207,350 per year.
This is because ortho dentistry often includes working closely with surgeons and other medical professionals for complicated cases which means that it requires a great deal of time commitment and experience to do well. As such, hours are typically quite long – orthodontics may work 60+ hours each week and work at least one-night shift per week.
Orthodontic Hygiene Salaries
The average salary for someone in the ortho hygiene field is $92,000 annually with top earners (i.e., those who are best at their job) being able to make more than $150,000 each year! This is because it does not require education past high school and you can often work independently so that dental practices do not have to hire a full-time hygienist on staff. You will need ongoing training however from an instructor or mentor such as brushing your teeth at least twice per day and applying fluoride varnish every six months among other procedures. There may also be opportunities for specialization within this category like working exclusively with children or adults if desired but these will require more education and training.
And the second most popular specialty is pediatric dentistry. As the name implies, pediatric means children. Pediatric dentists deal with patients who are 18 and under had 11,118 applicants with 457 that were accepted with a 4.1% acceptance rate.
The median salary for someone working within this specialty is $85,000 annually but can range up to as much as $90,000 depending on experience. You need six years after high school with four of those being spent completing dental studies followed by two more years studying pediatric dentistry before you are eligible for certification from the American Board.
Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery
As one might expect, there is an extensive amount of training required before you can be certified as a specialist in this niche area including six years after high school (including two additional years studying oral surgery) followed by three more years as an oral maxillofacial resident. This includes courses on topics such as anatomy and biology that are not required during dental school studies but which can be integrated into your training program at that time if desired. The top oral maxillofacial surgeons may also offer public or academic patients who cannot afford out-of-pocket fees for their procedures in private practice or academic settings which can add heavily to your earnings potential.
The third most popular specialty would have to be oral and maxillofacial surgery. And they do more than just tooth extractions. They deal with being out cysts and tumors and reconstructing the jaw and dealing with soft tissue or anything like that. Trauma. So that’s what oral surgeons do. It is very competitive, and they have 10,440 applicants with 262 that were accepted as the lowest acceptance rate out of all the other specialties, which makes sense. It had a 2.5% acceptance rate. The program can range from four to six years and six years includes two years of medical school and then four years of oral surgery training.
Surgeons, in general, tend to be the highest-paid specialists in the field, averaging a salary of about $217,000 a year.
The fourth dental specialty is endodontics, and endodontics is more than just root canals. Their philosophy is to save the tooth. They don’t want to take it out. Like oral surgeons do want to keep the tooth. It can be saved. They deal with pulpal and periapical tissues, and that pretty much means pulpal is the nerve of the tooth inside and the periapical is around the root of the tooth.
The program is two to three years, and it has 4,327 applicants with 220 that are accepted without 5.1% acceptance rate.
Endodontists are also among the higher-paid dental practitioners, earning on average about $324,000 and $380,000 per year, but maybe even higher if your practice takes on public or academic patients who will not pay out-of-pocket fees like private patients.
Next, the fifth most popular dental specialty is periodontics. People think it as like the “gum doctor”, which is like so much more than that. Periodontium actually means like the different tissues that support the tooth. It’s more than just the gums. It’s like the ligaments and things like that. And some procedures that they do is crown lengthening. So if you have like a gummy smile, they’ll, they can fix that.
They can do gum grafts, they can do pocket reductions was a cool procedure too. And it has 2,562 applicants with 199 acceptance and 7.8% acceptance rate.
The sixth most popular dental specialty is prosthodontics. They deal with fixing and replacing missing teeth actually. And they deal with a lot of aesthetic issues too. So besides dentures, they work with crowns, bridges, anything that can replace missing teeth and add beauty to it. It has 2,277 applicants with 159 that are accepted with a 7% acceptance rate.
Dental Public Health
Dental public health deals with the control and the prevention of dental disease and each year about 166 applicants apply and 36 people make it with a 21.7% evidence rate and the program is about 14 and a half months.
Oral and Maxillofacial Radiology
Then there is the eighth most popular, which is the Oral and Maxillofacial Radiology, not surgery but radiology, so this has to deal with a lot of the advancements of our technology today. In the dental department, there can be a 2.5-5 year program, and about 150 applicants apply in 18 people are accepted with an acceptance rate of 12%.
Oral and Maxillofacial Pathology
And the last dental specialty would have to be oral and maxillofacial pathology. So there’s surgery, radiology, and then pathology. These are dentists that really work or behind the scenes, they work with microscopes, they take biopsies, work with radio, gas, and they kind of decipher a lot of the pathology and the diseases that can go on in the oral and maxillofacial area.
They don’t directly deal with patients. They’re more of like the behind-the-scenes kind of detective. Each year about 91 applicants apply, and 16 people make it and 17.6% acceptance rate. And the program is about three years.
Oral Surgery Salaries
This is a high-risk, highly demanding specialty but the payoff can be worth it! The average salary for this profession ranges between $262,000 to as much as $400,000 annually with surgeons who perform difficult procedures earning even higher salaries which may also include bonuses when working in private practice or academic settings. As such you will need to complete dental school (four years) followed by four additional years of surgical residency before being eligible for certification on your state’s oral surgery examination and then completing two further years of an orthodontics program. You should note that these are not part-time programs – they take up full-time study hours each week like any other professional degree program.
Oral Medicine Salaries
While this is not the highest paying specialty within dentistry, it does require a great deal of commitment to training and education as you must complete four years at dental school followed by three more years in an oral medicine fellowship with certification from the American Board of Oral Medicine! The average salary for someone working in private practice or academic setting ranges between $250,000-$300,000 annually but may be higher if you are part of a team that manages difficult cases like cancer treatment patients. This requires additional training beyond just becoming licensed – such as going through radiation therapy screening which can add up to two weeks per year.
This is a high-risk, highly demanding specialty but the payoff can be worth it! The average salary for this profession ranges between $250,000-$300,000 annually with dentists who are in private practice or academic settings earning even higher salaries which may also include bonuses when working on difficult cases such as cancer treatment patients. As such you will need to complete dental school (four years) followed by four additional years of prosthodontics residency before being eligible for certification.
Now that we’ve covered the 6 highest paying dental specialty jobs, lets breakdown the top 3 best paying states and best city for these specific dental specialties, according to Zippia:
- Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeon:
- Best Paying States: South Dakota, North Dakota, and Montana.
- Best Paying City: Manchester, NH
- Best Paying States: Alaska, South Dakota, and Nevada
- Best Paying City: Urban Honolulu, HI
- Best Paying States: Alaska, South Dakota, and Nevada
- Best Paying City: Chelsea, MA
- Orthodontists and Dentofacial Orthopedists:
- Best Paying States: Alaska, Nevada, and North Dakota
- Best Paying City: Las Vegas, NV
- Best Paying States: North Dakota, Minnesota, and Alaska
- Best Paying City: Iowa City, IA
- Best Paying States: South Dakota, Montana, and Alaska
- Best Paying City: Norwalk, CT
What is the highest paid dentist?
What is the newest dental specialty?
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Why is a dentist called a dentist?
What type of dentist should I see?
Do dentists have the title Dr?
Who earns more dentist or doctor?
Is dentist a stressful job?
There’s a lot of stats and everything and you might be worried, oh my God, like I can’t be an oral surgeon because there’s a 2.5% acceptance rate as I was not necessarily the case. Just because these numbers are really like scary and daunting doesn’t mean that you don’t have what it takes, and we keep continuing to dream big, work hard, and never to give up to reach whatever your goals may be, whether it is to become a specialist or a general dentist, which is absolutely fine.
Coming down below the specialty that you are most surprised about, like, wow, it existed. I comment down below what specialty you are interested in.
What r pros and cons of different dental specialties (general, orthodontics, prosthodontics, endodontics,etc)?
I specialize in prosthodontics. I had an additional 2 years of training after my DDS license.
Advantages: I make alot more than regular general dentist so I only have to work 3 day a week. I like challenge: all my cases are diverse and complex. I only have to deal with crowns, bridges, dentures, dental implants, oral cancer reconstruction esthetic and reconstructive dentistry. I feel being a prosthodentist is very rewarding. You see results right away (like veneers, crowns), unlike ortho or perio.
Disadvantages: Few very difficult cases. Patient’s satisfaction. Miscommunication with general dentists.
What is the easiest dental specialty for a dental assistant to do?? Which specialty require less work for a dental assistant?
I’m starting my externship and I want to start slow and easy before I get to the harder part.
I don’t know from industry, first-hand experience, but I’ve had root canals in the past, and an endodontist’s office *seems* as though it’s the least stressful dental environment for a DA. Please, however, talk to DAs in the field *before* applying for an externship. I would think that a pediatric dental office would be the most complicated or complex as children (and/or those with disabilities) may be especially fearful of the dentist.
Please also keep in mind that applying to a general dentistry office may be more stressful, but the student may learn more and acquire a broader base of knowledge rather than with a specialty office.
As of today dentistry isn’t a good career if you want to make bank, most any case medicine beats it, even family medicine but here:
“This is a good question and I wish I had a better ( more optimistic) answer for you but the average debt is roughly 400K. A lot of future dentist have family who are dentist so this isn’t an issue considering their family usually help pay and they can work as an associate in one of their practices.
Now for ordinary joes who have to tackle debt, and have no family in dentistry: ( quick math): -> average associate salary 120K -> after tax 80K -> 400K debt -> pay 40K live off of 40K -> debt free in 10 + years ( with interest it may take a bit longer )
few notes: ->should you choose to start a practice you can make more ( 175K ) but do keep in mind your going to have to buy or build that practice and you need a loan to do that ( or take over from someone in your family) which will be hard to get when you are in debt
-> most dentist become general dentist (2/3) and with the rise in dental graduate the market is saturated, this will effect salaries and job opportunities.
-> should you choose to specialize, which will increase your salary prospects, do keep in mind that:
Dental specialties are very competitive ( only about 1/3 of dental students et them)
Most dental specialists require you to pay them! I cannot stress enough how horrible this is ( debt + interest + additional debt ) there is an endodontist on reddit a few years back who is in about 1 million dollars in debt with a salary of 180K ( he went to out of state new york-lol)
more general dentists are referring less and taking more cases. This is due to in house cost and how it favors them to do root canals, wisdoms teeth extraction, and invisalign ( not sure how to spell that ) along with other procedures specialists tend to do.
My point being: debt will suck, and hopefully you enjoy dentistry cuz for the next ten years it going to feel rough making what a plumber makes with a doctors degree… freaking dental schools, accepting more students, increasing tuition, saturating the market and telling people “ don’t worry about debt, dentists are paid well” ( this is what was said at my predental club)
The avg dentist works about 35 hrs a week making between 200-300k, that’s really good.