The numbers are in, and the job outlook for dentists is good! According to 2018 “Best Jobs” rankings from U.S. News & World Report, a career as a dentist is ranked #2 in the U.S. overall, second only to software developer. It is one of the most popular health careers, with a great earning potential and plenty of opportunities for career development.
Still, are there reasons to be optimistic about dental careers heading into the future? Having the 2018 numbers is one thing, but knowing that there will be a job waiting for someone going through dental school is quite another. Is dentistry a growth area that will be hiring in years to come, or is the industry dying out?
Is Dentistry a “Growth” Field?
In short, yes: Dentistry is growing at a rate that is faster than most other fields, and even greater than many other health professions. So the future job outlook for dentists is great, too.
The most recent estimates from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts a 19% increase in the number of dental jobs nationwide between 2016 and 2026. This is slightly higher than their estimates from two years previous.
We can understand the dental jobs that will be most highly sought after in the future by looking at the underlying reasons for these growth projections.
Reasons for the Growth of Dental Careers
There are some forces driving the expansion of dental health opportunities in the U.S. Here are a few of the main ones.
An aging population.
As more and more people are living longer, the average age of U.S. residents is going up. Along with advanced age comes the need for some more-advanced dental procedures, such as dentures, crowns, and implants. In fact, some economic analysts have predicted that the market for dental crowns and bridges is growing at a rate of roughly 7.2% per year, and will continue to do so through 2025.
Advances in cosmetic dentistry.
New techniques and procedures have brought a renewed interest in cosmetic dentistry, especially teeth whitening and orthodontics using clear plastic aligners trays (e.g., Invisalign). These have brought in new revenue streams for dentists and helped to grow practices nationwide, improving the overall job outlook for dentists.
Better oral health education.
Educating the public about oral health has been a focus for the industry for decades. All that hard work is paying off, as more people from all walks of life have come to appreciate the importance of dental health. As consumers become more familiar with dental procedures and the need for professional help in maintaining their oral health, the market demand for dentists grows.
New policies and programs.
New public programs, as well as a growing number of not-for-profits, are expanding accessibility to affordable dental care. Not only does this increase the number of patients seen in dental offices, it also increases the overall demand for dentists. It also demands more transparency and accountability from dental offices, which means that the need for support staff and DSOs is growing too.
Job Outlook For Dental Assistants and Support Staff Good,Too
Even as the demand for dentists grows, recent years have also seen a greater emphasis on efficiency in dental practices. This has led to a shift from “solo” practices and partnerships to a model where an expanded dental team provides more complete care for patients.
All of that means there has been a parallel increase in the number of jobs for dental assistants, dental hygienists, and office support personnel. In fact, more and more routine tasks are being assigned to dental assistants and hygienists so that dentists themselves can focus on the more clinical side of the practice.
The need for more office support, as well as the call for transparency mentioned above, has also led to the rise of DSOs.These organizations help support dentists by managing many of the non-clinical activities that would otherwise take up a dentist’s time.
Career Options for Dentists
Even within dentistry there are various specialties and subspecialties. This means that there is not one single career path in dentistry, but rather an array of options. Common specialties include:
- Dental public health specialists. Help prevent and control dental disease through community outreach, education, and advocacy.
- Dental surgeons/oral surgeons. Trained to perform surgical procedures on the mouth, teeth, jaws, and face.
- Dentofacial orthopedics dentists. Help guide facial growth and development, largely during childhood.
- Endodontists. Specialize in diseases and procedures affecting the dental pulp.
- Family dentists. Focus on families and patients of all ages.
- Maxillofacial prosthodontists. Help rehabilitate patients with acquired or congenital defects in the head and neck.
- Oral and maxillofacial surgeons. Perform surgeries and cosmetic procedures to correct issues with the mouth, jaws, face, and neck.
- Oral and maxillofacial radiologists. Help other dental specialists by providing images of the oral and maxillofacial regions.
- Oral pathologists. Specialize in the diagnosis of various oral conditions, including diseases of the mouth, jaw, face, and salivary glands.
- Orthodontists. Specialize in straightening teeth and correcting bites.
- Pediatric dentists. Focus on oral health in children (infants to teenagers).
- Reconstructive dentists. Help correct or restore damaged or missing teeth, which can involve dental implants, dentures, fillings, and/or crowns.
Many of these specialties require additional education and training. However, the potential for career development and advancement is greater, too.
From Dental School to a Lifelong Dental Career
What you learn in dental school is important, but so are your first few steps after finishing dental school. How do you translate your education into a dental career you will love? What are the first steps?
There is no one path through a dental career, so you will need to research and weigh your options. Some of the main options after dental school include:
- Postdoctoral education/residencies
- Working in private practice
- Partnering with a dental support organization (DSO)
- Employment with a multi-doctor practice
- Employment with a federal service/military
- Employment with a federally qualified health center (FQHS)
- Finding an associateship (practicing under another dentist)
To help you decide, see our infographic on post dental school options.
If you’re interested in viewing supported positions in one of our 950+ supported offices, please visit our job site.