Dental Specialties Crack 2019 List of Top Professions

Dentistry Today


US News & World Report has announced its list of the 100 Best Jobs in the United States, ranking dentistry fourth. But the report also broke out several dental specialties, with orthodontists tied with nurse anesthetists at fifth, prosthodontists and oral and maxillofacial surgeons tied with physicians, obstetricians, and gynecologists at ninth, and dental hygienists ranked thirtieth.

US News & World Report identified its top professions by analyzing data on the jobs that had the largest projected number of openings through 2026, according to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). The news agency then ranked these choices based on a variety of criteria, including median salary, employment rate, 10-year growth, future job prospects, stress level, and work-life balance. 

Orthodontists see a $208,000 median salary, along with a 0.9% unemployment rate and 1,300 jobs expected to open up through 2026. The highest paid orthodontists could be found in Lake County, Illinois, with a $283,100 average. Nassau County in New York, Tulsa in Oklahoma, Silver Spring in Maryland, and New York City were next on the list. By state, Alabama offers the best average, with $289,740, followed by Arizona, Massachusetts, North Carolina, and Missouri.

Yet the report called the specialty’s upward mobility average and gave its stress level and flexibility scores below average ratings. US News & World Report also notes that while most orthodontists used to open their own practices, a growing number are joining dental service organizations after finishing their residencies. DSOs enable these practitioners to pay off their student debts faster and gain experience without the stress of running a business.

Oral and maxillofacial surgeons also have a median salary of $208,000, with a 0.5% unemployment rate and 1,300 expected openings through 2026. Miami topped the list of highest paying cities at $289,570, with Washington, DC, Atlantic City in New Jersey, Nassau County in New York, and Gary, Indiana, next on the list. Florida as a state offered the best pay as well at $288,450, followed by Massachusetts, Virginia, Indiana, and Colorado.

Those big paychecks come with a cost, though. Upward mobility is only average for oral and maxillofacial surgeons, though, with above average stress and below average flexibility. And continuing education is essential, as the specialty evolves to meet challenges involving facial trauma, cleft lips, oral cancer, and sleep apnea. Coordination with ophthalmologists, trauma surgeons, radiologists, and other healthcare providers is vital as well.

Prosthodontists have a median salary of $185,150, with a 0.9% unemployment rate and 200 new jobs expected through 2026. California offered the best mean salary at $150,400, followed by Texas at $147,680 and Florida at $142,410. US News & World Report called the specialty’s upward mobility average with below average flexibility. Stress is above average, mainly because of patients with expectations or the potential for procedures to go wrong.

“As a prosthodontist, I get the opportunity to transform patients’ lives on a daily basis,” said Dr. Nadim Z. Baba, president of the American College of Prosthodontists, which noted that the profession climbed seven spots from its 2018 ranking and that the BLS expects demand for prosthodontists to increase by 19.1% through 2026. “It is a rewarding profession that utilizes the most advanced technology in dentistry to improve a patient’s overall health through their oral health.”

Dental hygienists, meanwhile, have the second best healthcare support job. With more than 200,000 nationwide, they have a $74,070 median salary with a 0.4% unemployment rate and 40,900 expected new jobs through 2026. San Francisco is the top city at $111,020, and Alaska is the highest paying state at $107,190. Upward mobility is below average, but the stress is average, and the flexibility is high.

US News & World Report cautions that it’s a physically demanding job, with many dental hygienists going home at the end of the day with sore hands, wrists, and shoulders. The report also notes that communication skills and a positive demeanor are key, considering how much dental hygienists must interact with patients, who often are uneasy about dental visits. Yet opportunities abound, with positions opening outside of traditional dental offices and in hospitals, county health clinics, and even physicians’ offices.

“The American Dental Hygienists’ Association (ADHA) is pleased to see US News & World Report highlight what we see every day—that dental hygiene is a vital and growing profession,” said Michele Braerman, RDH, BSDH, ADHA president. “As the role of dental hygienists grows and evolves, ADHA will always be a strong champion and national community to support dental hygienists in their personal and professional well-being.”

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