Dentists diagnose and treat teeth and mouth tissue problems and advise their patients on brushing and flossing, diet, fluoride and other dental care. Their work includes filling cavities, applying sealants, taking X-rays and straightening teeth. They also pull teeth, make denture models and treat gum disease by performing surgery on gums and supporting bones.
Types of Dentists
Dentists work either as general practitioners or in one of nine specialities. The largest of these are orthodonists and oral/maxillofacial (teeth, mouth, jaw, neck, head) surgeons. Others are periodontists (gums and supporting bones), endodontists (root-canal therapy), prosthodontists (prosthetics) and paediatric dentists.
The remainder are oral and maxillofacial radiologists (who use radiography to diagnose head and neck diseases), oral pathologists (who diagnose oral diseases) and public health specialists (who promote dental health and disease prevention).
About 120,000, or 85 per cent, of all dentists are general practitioners, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).
Virtually all dentists have a private practice, and very few work in hospitals or doctors' offices, according to the BLS. An estimated 75 per cent in private practice are sole proprietors, with 15 per cent working in a partnership. Some also work as "associate dentists" in another's practice.
Average Annual Salary
A dentist's average annual salary was £99,820 in May 2009, according to the BLS. States with the highest average annual salary were New Hampshire at £159,243, Hawaii at £135,707, Georgia at £133,191, California at £120,763 and Oregon at £108,160. The highest-paying industries were dental offices, with a £115,745 average annual salary; federal, state and local governments, at £86,359 annually; and general medical and surgical hospitals, at £53,228. The top-paying metropolitan areas were Sacramento, Calif.; Richmond, Va.; Bend, Ore.; Atlanta; and Portland, Ore.
Dental Office Staff
Private practice dentists employ dental assistants, dental hygienists, receptionists and dental lab technicians. They also oversee bookkeeping, ordering of supplies and other administrative tasks.
Dentists' employment is projected to increase by 16 per cent from 2010 through 2018, faster than other occupations, according to the BLS. It is expected to continue increasing due to an expanding elderly population. More elderly people are retaining their teeth than in the past, which means they need much more dental care.
Increased productivity from new technology and more tasks assigned to dental assistants and hygienists means demand for dental care will increase faster than dentists' employment. Also, dental school graduates can look forward to taking over the practices of older dentists approaching retirement.
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