The outlook for dental care jobs is very good. Employment opportunities for dentists are expected to grow faster than the average job through 2028. The U.S. Department of Labor says the number of dentist jobs in the country will grow at a rate of 7 percent. As the population continues to grow, there will be an increased demand for general dentists and specialists. In addition, new dentists will be needed to replace a significant number of dentists who will be reaching retirement age in the next decade. The need for more dentists and dental care services is also expected to increase due to the significant number of people that will be reaching the age range of 60–79. Typically, this population requires more dental work.
Although young people primarily need preventive care, since fluoridation of water has succeeded in reducing tooth decay, older generations will need increasing amounts of dental treatment. Today's elderly have kept more of their natural teeth, meaning that they have more teeth in need of regular dental care. If the number of dentists holds steady, dentists will become busier. The median annual salary for dentists in 2018, according to the DOL, was approximately $156,240. The median salary for surgeons and specialists was around $208,000 or higher per year, while the lowest paid dentists, general dentists, earned an average salary of $151,800.
The outlook is also very good for dental hygienists. According to the DOL, the number of hygienist jobs will increase by 11 percent by the year 2028. The DOL cites an increasing demand for preventive care as the primary reason for this growth. Other factors contributing to the increased demand for hygienists include new and increasingly accurate technologies to help diagnose oral health problems and an increase in the number of patients. Hygienists earned a median salary of approximately $74,820 in 2018.
Dental assistants will also be in high demand over the next several years. The DOL says the number of dental assistant jobs will increase by 11 percent by 2028. Like hygienists, similar factors will drive this increased demand. Research linking oral health with general health is leading to more people interested in receiving routine dental care. With the increased number of patients and not as many dentists to provide care, dentists will need to hire assistants to help them with more routine tasks so they can focus more on patients and complex procedures. In 2018, the median annual salary for dental assistants was $38,660.
Dental laboratory technicians are expected to have 11 percent employment growth by 2028, according to the DOL. The aging population will give rise to increased need for dental appliances and cosmetic and functional dental reconstruction. When it comes to salary, the median annual salary for these workers is approximately $36,690 per year.
In the early stages of the 2020 coronavirus pandemic, dentists nationwide temporarily closed their practices for all but emergency patients. Projections saw a nearly 66 percent decline in spending in the industry throughout 2020, a loss that will greatly impact the future of dentistry in the U.S. and globally. As the spread of COVID-19 slowed, dentists, already accustomed to wearing masks when treating patients, found it possible to reopen using strict social distancing protocols and careful cleaning and hygiene.
The Health Policy Institute of the American Dental Association projected that dental care spending would decline by up to 38 percent in 2020 and by 20 percent in 2021. As distribution of the COVID-19 vaccine increases in 2021, more people will seek appointments for dental maintenance and procedures. The research group IBISWorld predicts there will be good opportunities in the dentists industry through 2025 because of the pent-up demand for dental care during the pandemic, as well as the rebounding economy and increasing levels of consumer disposable income.