Thursday, October 24, 2013

What Does a Graduating Pediatric Dentist Earn?

So you have done well in college and were accepted into dental school. During this time you have realized that you have a special talent and interest in working with kids. You apply and are accepted into a pediatric residency and spend a couple of more years earning your pediatric dental certification.

Finally, after many years of study and devotion, you are a pediatric dentist! You are now ready to enter the market and find that first job and wonder what is fair and what you can expect to earn. You probably have heard figures from your residency director, co-residents and others in the specialty and the numbers may vary widely. Who is right? They are probably all correct in what they are telling you and the differences can be explained by understanding what they have experienced.
I am an independent recruiter who works exclusively with dental specialists and I spend most of my time with private pediatric dental practices and those looking to hire a pediatric dentist. I work nationally and see daily what practices are offering and new graduates are getting in different areas around the country.
What am I seeing? Nationally, on average, I see base guarantee of around $200,000 which is vs. a % of collections. Most practices pay on a % of collections rather than production since most are participating in a few PPO’s or discounted plans.
To break this down further, the daily guarantee averages between $800 and $1,200. The daily guarantee should become a moot point after one is up and running with a practice and it is there as a floor. With the guarantee, the practice is saying that they are going to have a schedule that will allow you to be productive and, if they do not for a particular day, you will still be paid for your time.
What % are practices paying? Typically it will be between 35% and 45%. A % approach is recommended rather than a flat salary because it allows the associate to be in control of their destiny and they know what they need to produce and then collect in order to reach a certain earnings level. With the % approach vs. a salary, practice owners are not wondering if they are overpaying and associates are not wondering if they are being underpaid and are incentivized to work rather than surfing the internet or other non productive distractions.
Why would one work for 35% when others are getting 45%? I see a good number of graduating pediatric dentists who evaluate a practice opportunity based on the % alone and anything less than 40% or 45% are not of interest to them. What they really need to look at is the nature of the practice to include the patient flow, whether they will be doing a good amount of restorative and the ability to do hospital dentistry and sedations etc. A pediatric dentist can do much better financially in a busy practice paying a lower % vs. a higher end, slower practice paying 45% where they are relegated to hygiene checks and little restorative dentistry. 
Location, Location, Location: That said, the biggest factor in what a new graduate pediatric dentist can and will earn is where they decide to live and practice. This is a simple supply and demand economics equation with some of the best earnings opportunities being in areas that you and I may have never heard of.
What I see is that most of the major metropolitan areas across the country tend to be fairly saturated with pediatric dentists and it can be more challenging for the new graduates to find truly good private practice opportunities. I recommend looking at areas where people are not going and take a position there for a couple of years. You can earn a great deal, gain very valuable experience and make yourself much more marketable and you will find it much easier to get into the market where you really want to be for the long term.
If you have any questions about earnings or the state of pediatric dentistry in certain areas of the country feel free to call me. I will be happy to share with you what I know.
Gary Harris is a nationwide Recruiter for Dental Specialists at ETS Dental. He can be reached at or 540-491-9115. ETS Dental is a Dental Recruiting firm specializing in finding and placing General Dentists, Dental Specialists, and Dental Staff throughout the United States.