A government wage report highlights the states and specialties where dentists, on average, earn the most among all health professionals

By Maxwell Rotbart


In the friendly professional rivalry between dentists and doctors, medical professionals have an income edge in 40 states and Washington, DC.

That’s according to data released by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), originating from May 2017 (the latest available period). The report shows that dentists and doctors are the highest paid professionals, on average, in every state, with doctors edging out oral health providers in most of the states.


The states where average dental salaries rule are, in alphabetical order: Alabama, Arizona, Florida, Iowa, Massachusetts, Missouri, New Jersey, South Carolina, Utah, and Virginia.

The average $289,740 earned by orthodontists in Alabama make them the top wage earners among any professionals, including physicians, anywhere in the country.

BLS only releases the data; it makes no effort to explain it. Nor do the BLS figures account for the sizable number of dentists and medical doctors who individually earned well over seven figures annually from their practices and related activities.

As recently as 2014, the list of states where dentists were the top professional earners in their state looked quite different, with only Massachusetts, Utah, and Virginia remaining.


Among general dentists in the fifty states plus the District of Columbia, Delaware is tops when it comes to average annual compensation, at $257,290.


Between 2014 and 2017, dentists displaced physicians as the top state earners in Alabama, Arizona, Florida, Iowa, Missouri, New Jersey, and South Carolina. However, dentists in Idaho, Indiana, New Hampshire, Oregon, Texas, and Vermont – the top earners in their states back in 2014 – are no longer the top salaried professionals in their respective states.

Wage discrepancies for health care providers, from state to state, can be quite significant, according to BLS. In Georgia, for example, on average, the best-paid dentists earn $186,010 annually; while orthodontists in Alabama bring home $100,000 a year more.

Delaware surgeons earn the most of any physicians in any state, pulling in an average of $286,400 annually. But that is still $3,000 less than Alabama’s orthodontists.


Oral Surgeons and Orthodontists

Among general dentists in the fifty states plus the District of Columbia, Delaware is tops when it comes to average annual compensation, at $257,290. By comparison, general dentists in Louisiana bring in the smallest yearly income of any general dentist – only $115,050.

Rounding out the top five states for salaried general dentists are (in descending order): North Dakota, Alaska, North Carolina, and New Hampshire. Nebraska, Wyoming, Pennsylvania, and Utah, in that order, join general dentists in Louisiana at the bottom of the pay scale.

General dentists do not top the list in any state. Of the ten states in which dentists are the best paid, five of them are dominated by oral and maxillofacial surgeons (Florida, Iowa, Massachusetts, South Carolina, and Virginia), four of them are topped by orthodontists (Alabama, Arizona, Missouri, and New Jersey), and one state (Utah) lists so-called “dental specialists” as its top earners.

Among medical professionals, anesthesiologists are the top earners in 16 states and Washington, DC, the most of any professional category (including dentistry). Medical surgeons had the biggest average income in 12 states, OB/GYNs in five states, pediatricians, internists, and other specialists in two states each, and podiatrists in a single state (Hawaii).


Author: Contributing writer Maxwell Rotbart specializes in covering business, education, and history-related topics. He is the author of The State of Israel: Prime Ministers, available from Amazon.com.

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