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The 10 Highest-Paying States for Dentists

Data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics show dentists can earn a top-notch salary if they're willing to go to states with relatively low numbers of dentists.
Jared Kaltwasser
PUBLISHED: Monday, May 16, 2016

dentist pay, earnings, salary, dentists, personal financeSTORY UPDATED HERE: See the highest-paying states for dentists in 2017.

Like many facets of the economy, supply and demand plays a major role in how much a dentist gets paid in a given area. Areas with a high concentration of dentists tend to pay less than average, even if those locations are also high-cost states, such as New Jersey and California.

That’s just one of the findings in the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ dental employment data.

Dentist’s Money Digest used BLS data from May 2015 (the most recent data available) to compile a list of the states with the highest average pay for dentists. The list is diverse geographically, but the states in the Top 10 tend to have a relatively small number of physicians. For instance, four of the five highest-paying states for dentists have fewer than 1,000 dentists.

On average, according to the BLS, a general dentist earned about $166,000 annually in 2015. For comparison purposes, the BLS estimate is slightly lower than the $174,000 average the American Dental Association found in a 2014 survey of its members. The ADA data also show that dentists who own their practice (either as a solo practitioner or partner) earn nearly $50,000 more than dentists who are employed.

It’s also notable that a lot depends on the city in which a dentist practices. Jackson, TN, is the highest-paying metropolitan area for dentists, according to the BLS. But Tennessee overall ranks in the middle of the pack in terms of dentist pay.

All that said, the BLS state-level data give a good indication of where dentists might want to practice if they’re looking to maximize their earning potential. What follows is a list of the 10 states with the highest average annual income, according to the BLS. Also included in each capsule are the Kaiser Family Foundation’s count of the total number of professionally active dentists in the state, CNBC’s cost of living rank for each state (where 1=the lowest-cost state; 50=the highest-cost state), and the average home value in the state according to real estate website Zillow.

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