Here is the annual list of the top 10 and bottom 5 cities for dentists to live and work in in 2022.
The United States of America is a big place. Its total area is 3.8 million square miles and there are more than 4.1 million miles of roads. It’s hard to say, exactly, how many cities there are because the number is nebulous, depending on how a “city” is defined. Do townships count? What about unincorporated areas? But the best guess is to say that there are about 15,000 cities. There are also 3,006 counties; 14 boroughs and 11 census areas in Alaska; the District of Columbia; and 64 parishes in Louisiana.
The United States of America is a big enough place that dentists can work just about anywhere they want. To that end, we’ve compiled our annual list of the top 10 (and bottom 5) places for dentists to live and work.
There are a lot of factors that go into establishing which are the best – and which are the worst – communities for dentists to live and work. Certainly, money matters, but while dentists must have some level of compassion for their fellow man, not many are doing the work out of sheer altruism. There’s more to it than just that – in fact, only 1 city in the top 10 list was even in the national salary top 10. When evaluating cities’ merits, we have to look at a host of factors.
We started by looking at the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics’s (BLS) data which gave us the top-earning cities in America. But the cost of living varies, depending where in the country one lives. For instance, things like food, housing, and discretionary spending are more expensive in San Francisco, California than they are inthe southeast part of Mississippi. As such, we added the AdvisorSmith Cost of Living Index as a factor in the calculations.
However, there is more to life than making and spending money (nationwide, general dentists earned an average of $163,220 in 2021). That’s when we started adding such factors as overall economy, public safety, and so forth.
Our complete list of metrics is:
Included, where available, is information about the total number in that profession for the community. Nationwide, BLS reported a total of139,200 dentists in 2020 (they didn’t have 2021’s number).
In addition to BLS, we refined our rankings from personal finance website Wallethub.com, U.S. News & World Reports’s Healthiest Communities study, and data from Centers for Disease Control for life expectancy, by state.
We compiled all the rankings and then honed the list from there. Whoever got the lowest score earned the highest position on the list; whoever got the highest score, well, we talk about them also.
With no further ado…
With an annual wage of $220,070 per year, the 70 dentists who serve the Portsmouth, New Hampshire/Maine area are very close to breaching the top 10 for national salary – the area comes in at number 13. However, with the cost of living index at 109.6 those dentists must be able to make their money work a little harder. The area does enjoy reasonably high rankings for stress (5) and education (6), but community health (30), oral health (29), and public safety (60) pull it to the bottom of the top 10.
The 40 dentists who live and work in Ames, Iowa can be happy with their community’s number one ranking for education. However, despite good rankings for oral health (12) and stress (11), an economy ranking of 66 and a public safety ranking of 69 helps explain its position towards the bottom of the top 10. Happily, however, an average annual wage of $173,190, coupled with the cost of living index of 92, make it a little easier to manage.
A lot of people would love to earn $187,910 per year, and the 60 dentists who live and work in Danbury, Connecticut enjoy such a salary. However, they can’t do as much with it with a cost of living index of 119.2. Happily, however, the area comes in second place for education, fifth place for oral health, and number six for overall life expectancy
Cradled at the corner where Iowa, South Dakota, and Nebraska meet, Sioux City, Iowa is served by 60 dentists who earn an average of $168,030 per year. This puts them in 174th spot for overall national earnings, something they can do a lot more with given the area’s 87 cost of living index – the lowest in the top 10. Oral health, stress, and public safety are their highest rankings, but they really get dragged down because of the overall salary ranking, community health, and economy.
The 80 dentists who live and work in Las Cruces, New Mexico have a couple of really good things going for them — with number 2 placements for community health and public safety, it’s a good community to live and raise a family. Their annual wage is $170,050 per year, which puts them at 164th position in the nation. Happily, with the COLI at 90, those dentists can do more with their money. However, other factors — such as education, stress, and life expectancy — push them further down the list.
Most people have probably seen the most famous dentist from Cedar Rapids, Iowa, but they probably don’t know that he was, in fact, a dentist. Dr Byron McKeeby was the model used for the farmer holding the pitchfork in Grant Wood’s iconic 1930 painting “American Gothic”. (Wood’s sister, Nan, served as the model for the farmer’s daughter). While Dr McKeeby isn’t smiling, the 110 dentists who work there now likely are. Most of their placings are solid, middle-of-the-pack rankings. Those practitioners come in 55th place for salary, earning $192,000 per year. And, with a COLI of 75, they get a fair bang for their buck. It’s almost guaranteed that if Dr McKeeby earned $192,000 per year in 1930, he would be grinning from ear-to-ear.
Rochester, Minnesota – home of the Mayo Clinic – earns the top spot in terms of community health. Rochester earned this ranking from U.S. News & World Report’s Healthiest Communities study, which gave it a 97 out of 100 score (it slipped a little from last year’s perfect 100 score). That health grade trickled down in such other factors as stress and life expectancy. While the rest of the rankings were solidly toward the top of the pack, overall salary – $180,660 – came in 98th place, but there are 80 dentists enjoying the benefits of living and working in the city.
The 390 dentists serving the Bridgeport-Stamford-Norwalk, Connecticut area have a lot of pluses. They rank number 2 for education, number 5 for oral health, and number 6 in life expectancy. But not everything is glowing. Even though they make a very respectable $217,800 a year – the 15th highest in the nation – with a COLI at 119, they must make their money work a little harder.
The 60 dentists serving the Northwest Iowa nonmetropolitan area (a 21-county region including Winnebago, Humboldt, and Cherokee Counties) are the only dentists who earn enough to land a spot in the overall top 10 list for earners. The fact that the area is 13% cheaper to live in than the average means that those dentists can do a lot with their money. However, other factors keep it from number 1 honors. For instance, education and economy are somewhat low. However, public safety, oral health, and stress are reasonably high.
Retaining its pack-leading position from last year’s list is Appleton, Wisconsin. The community of 74,000 people is served by 90 dentists. The fact that those dentists earn around $183,890 a year – placing them in the 79th position in overall salary – underscores how all the metrics aggregate to give an overall picture of life in a community. The area’s public safety and life expectancy scores are high, but what really puts the community over the top is its overall oral health and stress rankings.
With any top 10 list, there is a natural inclination to ask, “If those are the best places to live and work, where are the worst?” We scrolled to the end of the list to present the following:
The 90 dentists who serve the 10 counties (including Chesterfield, Georgetown, Williamsburg Counties) that comprise the Northeast South Carolina nonmetropolitan area have the dubious honor of earning the least of anybody on our list (not in the nation, however. That distinction goes to the dentists who serve the Lower Savannah South Carolina nonmetropolitan area – they earn about $102,680 per year). However, the dentists in the northeast nonmetropolitan area don’t earn much more – an average of $110,660 per year. Other factors that drag them to the bottom of the list include low rankings for education, economy, and public safety.
There are 18 counties that comprise the southeast Mississippi nonmetropolitan area (including Wayne, Leake, and Clarke Counties). This region is served by 110 dentists who earn an average of $140,140 per year. The area enjoys one of the lowest cost of living indexes in the nation – 85.9. Unfortunately, the area earns very low rankings for most every other metric, including oral health and life expectancy.
There are 30 counties (including Wayne, Early, and Appling Counties) in the South Georgia nonmetropolitan area. Eighty dentists serve this area, earning an average of $142,730 per year. Regrettably, their education, economy, and public safety rankings are some of the lowest in the nation. Happily, however, a cost of living index of 89.2 makes it easier to do more with their money.
The 11 counties in southeastern Texas that comprise the Big Thicket Region (including Tyler, Sabine, and Angelina counties) are served by 60 dentists. While their annual wage is one of the lowest in the nation (coming in at 354th, $121,380 per year) at least the cost of living index is 89.6, which makes money management a little easier. Regrettably, other factors that pull the region into the bottom five list including low scores for community health, education, and economy.
The 180 dentists who serve the Myrtle Beach-Conway-North Myrtle Beach, South Carolina/North Carolina area and have some challenges. With a community health ranking of 271, education ranking of 303, and a public safety rating of 368, the community, itself, doesn’t seem too inviting. The cost of living index is 94.7, which is welcome, given that the average salary is $129,120 per year.