Orthodontists: Salary Overview
Orthodontists diagnose and treat occlusions, overbites, misaligned teeth and jaws, and other oral cavity anomalies.
An orthodontist’s job description also includes designing and fabricating appliances to realign teeth and jaws.
According to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics, the mean annual wage for this profession was $230,830 in May 2019, which translates into an average hourly rate of $110.98.
The median annual wage for orthodontists in the United States was over $208,000 as of May 2019.
This is higher than the median annual wage for general dentists but in order to become an orthodontist, you will need additional training and licensure, which can translate into additional educational costs.
Like with all professions, salaries for orthodontists also vary depending on experience, the region of employment, and reputation,
The lowest 10 percent earned less than $73,490 a year but experienced orthodontists who have many patients can make more than $400,000 a year.
This profession can be financially rewarding and job prospects in this field are expected to be good in the future.
However, an important aspect that should be mentioned when talking about an orthodontist’s salary is the student loan debt, which is an issue for new orthodontists who still have to pay for their student loans.
According to the American Association of Orthodontists’ Student Loan Survey, the average student loan debt is $418,722 for students who have graduated between 2008 and 2017.
The average student loan debt for 2008-2017 orthodontic graduates was, according to the same survey, $456,036.
Depending on the repayment schedule, the above sum can translate into monthly payments that vary between $1,000 and more than $5,000.
As a new orthodontist with an annual wage of less than $100,000, covering your monthly debt payments can be quite a difficult task.
Orthodontist Salary by Industry
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, orthodontists held about 5,990 jobs in the United States in 2019, most of them working in offices of dentists.
About 110 orthodontists were employed by general medical and surgical hospitals and 50 of them worked in offices of physicians.
The average annual salary for orthodontists employed in the offices of dentists was $235,610.
Those who worked of general medical and surgical hospitals made around $154,710 on average and those employed by offices of physicians made approximately $207,040 a year, on average.
Some orthodontists own their own practice and their income varies depending on costs, revenue, and expenses.
New practice owners typically earn less than those who work for an established dental practice but after building a patient base and a reputation the income potential for orthodontists who start their own practice is greater compared to associate orthodontists and those who work as independent contractors.
Regardless of their career choice, an orthodontist’s earnings vary depending upon the region where the dental office is located and the local economy.
An orthodontist who practices in a busy area in a big city will typically have higher rates than those who work in small towns.
Bonuses and Other Benefits
Along with a fixed salary, salaried orthodontists may also receive bonuses and profit sharing.
According to a report published by payscale.com in May 2020, on average, orthodontists make $6,500 a year in bonuses and $2,750 in profit sharing.
These numbers vary widely depending on the orthodontist’s experience, skills, and the company’s profit.
The same report shows that bonuses range between $90-$30,000 a year, while profit-sharing earnings can be anywhere between $295-$10,000.
Many orthodontists also receive health insurance and some employers also offer paid vacation days.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, employment for orthodontists is projected to grow 7 percent from 2018 to 2028.
The demand for orthodontist services is projected to be good but the number of graduates from dental school has increased over the last years, therefore competition for jobs is expected to be strong in some areas.
If you’re willing to relocate to underserved areas, your employment prospects are expected to be good.
* Based on information from the May 2021 salary report from the BLS. The figures represent accumulated data for all states of employment for Orthodontists. BLS data represents averages and medians for workers at all levels of education and experience. This data doesn't represent starting salaries.
* Employment conditions in your area may vary.