How Lucrative Is Dentistry?

Mike’s been off the Internet for a week and hasn’t heard about Cecil the Lion, or the vilified Minnesota dentist Walter Palmer who paid for the privilege of shooting him to death for fun. Guard your innocence, Mike! The rest of you, I trust, are all in on this story and know the details as well as I do, including the new revelations that Palmer is on record as a menace to people as well as animals:

Walter Palmer settled a sexual harassment claim six years ago for $127,500, court records showed.

A dental assistant claimed in 2005 the 55-year-old subjected her to unwanted “verbal comments and physical conduct involving her breasts, buttocks, and genitalia,” the settlement agreement showed.

Palmer has been under fire since Zimbabwean conservationists revealed the bow hunter shot Cecil, a famous lion, during a $50,000 guided excursion in the country.

That’s a lot of dollars, right? Mary Beth Williams thinks so.

It seems like a lot to me too! And since her rhetorical question made me curious, I dug around a little bit for an answer. According to this report from 2013, dentistry is one of the most lucrative careers, with an average annual salary of $110,000.

US News claims the average annual salary is higher still:

Dentists are very well compensated for the services they provide. According to the BLS, dentists earned a median salary of $146,340 in 2013. The best-paid earned more than $187,999, while the lowest-paid earned less than $72,240. Dentists who work in private offices are paid particularly well, but so are those who work alongside other health practitioners.

With an average salary of $164,570 in 2013, dentists earn far more than most other health care workers. Dentists earn much more than dental assistants ($35,640) and dental hygienists ($71,530). Registered nurses ($68,910) and pharmacists ($116,500) also make less than the average dentist. However, there are a few health care occupations that make salaries higher than dentists, including physicians.

Not bad.

Sedation dentistry pays even better since “fear is lucrative”:

Sedation dentistry is generally not covered by insurance, and prices can range from $50 for nitrous oxide to more than $1,000 for IV sedation. Fear is lucrative. The prospect of sedation has the ability to attract new dental patients to the market for general and cosmetic procedures- the patients who have avoided the dental market altogether as a result of their anxiety.

An analysis in Dental Economics showed that the highest profit in terms of dollars can be generated by IV sedation, but in terms of profit percentages, oral sedation such as Valium is the most lucrative. Also recognized was the collections advantage inherent in sedation dentistry: patients who plan to be sedated by oral or IV methods on the day of their procedure are usually required to pay up front.

Also lucrative: convincing brides-to-be they need “perfect smiles” for their one special day.

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