In a recent survey, The Wealthy Dentist asked dentists if they consider themselves wealthy—and two out of three dentists said no, they are not in fact wealthy.
Many dentists pointed out how expensive the profession can be. "As much as I love dentistry, I am not sure I would choose this path if I had it to do over again. Many other fields are more lucrative without the same financial investment," commented a California dentist.
"Educational costs are very high, and borrowing money for a private practice is an enormous amount of debt," agreed a South Carolina orthodontist
Some dentists admit they’re not currently wealthy. "I’m not wealthy yet, but I am well on my way to one day being there!" wrote an Ohio dentist. "I’m 52 and I make a good living now, but I lived paycheck to paycheck until I was 40," said a Virginia orthodontist.
Other dentists are delighted to be wealthy. "Statistics show that dentists average about $180,000 per year, putting them in the top 5% of earners in America. I personally earn more than that and am comfortable in my lifestyle and prospects for a secure retirement," said one pediatric dentist.
"I retired 4 years ago with a net worth of $4.5 million and live half the time in Hawaii now," shared a retired Tennessee dentist.
Of course, different people have different definitions of wealth. "I am not wealthy when compared to my social peers, but I am viewed as wealthy by my staff and family," acknowledged a Delaware dentist.
No matter how high their incomes, many dentists report feeling trapped by their financial obligations. "I just purchased a practice, and my school debt exceeds $200,000. Now I have to purchase the building of the practice for $600,000, and I purchased a home… So the debt load is enormous in the beginning," wrote a Vermont dentist.
A Michigan dentist agreed, joking, "I owe, I owe, it’s off to work I go."
Some bristle at the common perception of dentists as wealthy. "The idea that all dentists are wealthy is absurd," wrote a Minnesota dentist. "The public has no idea what it costs to run a dental clinic. Lab bills are $12,000 a month. Salaries are $20,000 a month. Add in equipment, rent, liability insurance, and of course, endless supplies, and now you have some very serious overhead. In reality, dentists must produce so very much revenue before they pay themselves that very few dentists are truly wealthy."
The slowing economy isn’t helping dental practices’ bottom lines. "The economic climate is such that income used for dental health care has been dried up," observed a Michigan dentist.
"A high income isn’t the only requirement for wealth," said Jim Du Molin, dental consultant and founder of The Wealthy Dentist. "The economics of running a dental practice can be challenging, especially without a financial advisor. To meet their retirement goals, a dentist needs to really have a plan."