NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis


January 17, 2005

After the decline of dentistry in the 1980s, dentists are making a strong come back, surpassing others in the medical professions in terms of higher earnings and shorter work weeks, says the Wall Street Journal.

Comparative data from a survey conducted by the American Dental Association and American Medical Association found:

  • From 1988 to 2000, the average income for dentists has more than doubled, while the average income for physicians only grew 42 percent; the inflation rate for that period was 46 percent.
  • In 2000, general dentists earned, on average, $166,460, while general internal-medicine doctors had an average income of $164,100; also lagging behind dentists, other average incomes included $145,700 for psychiatrists, $144,700 for family-practice physicians and $137,800 for pediatricians.
  • Dentists typically work 40-hour weeks, whereas physicians work 50 to 55 hours a week, not including hours spent on-call.

The dwindling gap in income between dentists and physicians is largely due to the managed-care reforms of the mid-1990s, says the Journal. Initially attractive, managed-care contracts gave physicians easy access to patients, but eventually resulted in too many office visits at insurers' low rates. Physicians report that overhead costs are up, but reimbursements have stayed the same.

Meanwhile, dentists are enjoying financial freedom from dental insurers and national health cost-cutting. Most private dental insurance is paid on a fee-for-service basis and many of the procedures requested today are optional and not covered by insurance. Fluoridated drinking water, preventative care, and technology have also caused a major shift in dentistry, taking it from a needs-based industry to a wants-based industry. Overall, people are now seeking dentists for vanity not for cavities, says the Journal.

Source: Mark Maremont, "Tale of Two Docs: Why Dentists Are Earning More," Wall Street Journal, January 10, 2005.

For WSJ text (subscription required):,,SB110531516417121170,00.html


Browse more articles on Health Issues