Dentistry is among the highest-paid professions in the U.S. However, dentists also graduate with heftier student loans than most. The American Dental Education Association estimates that the average debt per dental school graduate in 2021 was $301,583.

What is the average general dentist’s salary? How are you faring compared to your dentist colleagues, and how can you boost your base salary? Do you make enough to repay your student loan? Read on to find out!

Average Salary for Practice Owners or Partners

According to a survey by the American Dental Association (ADA) and the Health Policy Institute, the annual net income in the dental profession in 2020 was $203,010. Practice owners earned significantly more, with an average salary of $225,800. Non-solo owners or partners had the highest salary, averaging $280,190.

Average Salary for an Associate Dentist

Looking at the same ADA survey, the average dentist salary for associates was $134,170. The gap between dental specialists and generalists was significant: They took home $193,720 and $126,130, respectively.

When considering salaries, it’s important to note that associates benefit from focusing on dentistry only. Their job description doesn’t have the added responsibilities of practice owners, such as:

  • Marketing and advertising 
  • Hiring and managing receptionists, dental hygienists, and other staff
  • Buying equipment and supplies
  • Paying for office overhead


General Dentist Practice vs. Dental Specialty Practice

The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported 146,200 dentists working in 2021. Most (87%) were general practitioners. New Hampshire ($233,860) and Delaware ($225,140) had the highest median salary, and New York had the highest mean hourly average ($82.11).

According to the ADA survey above, the average dentist salary for generalists was $170,160. However, there is a considerable income gap between employees and owners:

  • Employed dentists: $126,130
  • All practice owners: $187,070
  • Solo owners: $160,790
  • Non-solo owners: $232,050

The average specialist dentist, such as a periodontist, maxillofacial surgeon, or pediatric dentist, took home a lot more: $323,780 on average. 

  • Employed dentists: $193,720
  • All practice owners: $349,740
  • Solo owners: $302,130
  • Non-solo owners: $415,750


How To Increase Your Dental Salary 

Whether you are an employee or run your own practice, there are always ways to earn more.

Start Your Own Practice

Transitioning from an employee to an owner is one of the most effective ways to boost your earnings. You have two options: to buy an existing dental practice or start your own from scratch. 

The main benefit of acquiring an existing practice is its developed client base. If you decide to buy, check the ADA Marketplace, which lists practices for sale, and the Small Business Administration, a federal government agency that offers financing options for dental practice acquisition.

If you’d rather start your own practice, follow these steps:

  • Find a community with a need for dental services
  • Calculate whether it’s best to buy, construct, or lease a building
  • Create financial projections for your dental business
  • Secure financing from lenders, investors, or personal savings
  • Buy equipment and dental supplies
  • Hire at least one receptionist, dental hygienist, and dental assistant
  • Ensure that you have the proper license and insurance 
  • Create and implement a marketing plan to attract new patients


Increase Patient Acquisition and Retention

The most effective way to consistently acquire and retain dental patients is to provide stellar customer service. When you create positive rapport with patients, they are more likely to return and refer friends and family. With this in mind, be sure to focus on customer service in every client interaction.

It’s also a good idea to start a referral program or reward scheme for loyal patients. Referrals and return business are the cornerstones of a successful dental practice. Show loyal patients that you appreciate them by offering gifts or discounted whitening or cleaning treatments.

You should also consider starting a dental membership health plan that offers benefits or discounts to patients who pay a monthly or yearly fee. The plan can replace their dental health insurance or function as an add-on to their existing health coverage. A typical dental plan includes:

  • Two free cleanings per year
  • Annual X-rays
  • One fluoride treatment or teeth whitening
  • Discounted rates for other procedures, such as fillings or dental surgery


Step Up Your Marketing Efforts

Establishing a solid online presence is key to marketing your practice in today’s internet age. The first step is to create an informative, professional, and user-friendly website. 

You should also consider setting up a dental blog or YouTube channel to share helpful tips. Providing valuable content for free is a fantastic way to build brand loyalty and establish yourself as a trusted resource on health care, dental medicine, and oral health. You could even put out content from guest specialists such as pediatric dentists.

Last but not least, find out which social media channels your patients use the most and create accounts for your practice. Post dentistry news, dental care tips, discount announcements, and more to stay top of mind with your audience.

Invest in the Right Tools

As a dentist, you have enough on your plate as it is, especially if you run your own practice. It can be hard to find time in your busy schedule to also think about marketing, client retention, and new income streams.

This is where dental software like Weave comes in. Weave is our proprietary all-in-one solution for dental practices that allows you to automatically:

  • Communicate with patients via phone and text
  • Manage schedules and appointments
  • Request reviews and payments
  • Collect and view patient data and analytics
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By streamlining and automating these and other operations, you can realize significant savings in staffing and operational costs. More importantly, you can increase your income through improved marketing, customer service, appointment management, and payment collection.

Don’t take our word for it. Read this case study to learn how Altius Dental in Arlington, TX, leveraged our software to decrease missed calls by over 50%, gain better visibility into the customer experience, and ensure rapid COVID-19 response across 25+ practice locations.

Are You Ready to Boost Your Dental Practice Income?

Don’t settle for an average general dentist’s salary. Request a demo to see how Weave can boost your earnings and transform your dental practice!