May 3, 2016 -- If you're graduating or looking to move to another city, consider relocating to Port St. Lucie, FL, which was ranked as the best U.S. city for dentists in 2016. The city boasts an average annual salary of more than $225,000 for dentists, yet its cost of living is less expensive than average.
ValuePenguin, a website that provides free information and tools for consumer spending decisions, evaluated 88 U.S. cities to come up with the 2016 Best Cities for Dentists list. Cities that did particularly well, such as Port St. Lucie, had high average salaries relative to the cost of living, as well as a large number of dentists.
"We wanted to study dentists because we also built a career guide for current and aspiring dentists," said Andrew Pentis, the author of the study that determined the rankings, in an interview with DrBicuspid.com. "So we put together the best cities as part of that -- to basically educate and inform aspiring dentists or current dentists looking to make a switch."
Getting more lifestyle bang for your salary buck
Dentists generally have high salaries, but they can still get more value for every dollar they earn in some locations. Pentis wanted to find out which cities could potentially provide dentists with a better quality of life.
He included four metrics when creating the rankings:
The location quotient looks at the number of dentist jobs as a relative percentage of nondentist jobs. A high location quotient means there is high demand for dentists in that city.
"For example, if in a city there are 10 jobs and four of them are dentistry jobs, obviously in that city there is a very high demand for that kind of professional," Pentis explained. "It works the same way with location quotient. If there's a higher location quotient in a given city, that means there's more likely going to be a job opening sooner rather than later as compared to a city that has a lower location quotient."
Pentis obtained the number of jobs, average annual salary, and location quotient information from U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics databases and the cost-of-living information from Sperling's Best Places website. Together, the four metrics provide a relatively objective city comparison tool.
"We like to include those basic four metrics, because we think there's the most objectivity in those four, and they do typically cover the most important things that people are concerned about," Pentis said. "You could also look at the health insurance implications, and what cities might cause the fewest headaches. But if you wanted to do that study, there would be 100 data points, and once you have 100, how do you weigh them?"
What are the best cities for dentists?
With an average annual income of $227,870 and a cost of living that is 7% less expensive than the U.S. average, Port St. Lucie ranked as the No. 1 city for dentists in 2016.
"If I'm a dentist and I like the warm weather and being along the coastline, I think you could probably do a lot worse than ending up in Port St. Lucie, just based on annual average income and cost of living alone," Pentis said.
Port St. Lucie also took the top spot for best midsized city, while Lake County, IL (Chicago and environs), ranked as the best large city, and Prescott, AZ, ranked as the best small city. Many California cities, including San Jose, Santa Cruz, and San Luis Obispo, placed toward the top of the list, although Pentis said that is not unusual.
"In some cases, we see a lot of cities from the same state that are dominating the top 10 or top 25, but that didn't necessarily happen with this," he said. "We do see a lot of California cities in the top 25, but that's not all that surprising given the size of California."
What has changed and what is next?
The last and only other time ValuePenguin ranked the best cities for dentists was in 2014, and the list looked quite different. Tacoma, WA, was the No. 1 city, followed by Kokomo, IN, and Coeur d'Alene, ID. In fact, Port St. Lucie didn't even make the top 10 that year.
"The top five is very different in a two-year span, despite the fact we used the same methodology essentially," Pentis said. "There's possibly quite a bit of fluidity in what makes the 'best city for dentists.' "
He assumed that part of the change was because some cities are now catering to entrepreneurs, such as dentists, which drives up demand and salaries.
"In two more years or five more years, we'll probably have a different list," Pentis said. "If a city can cater to the dentist/business owner and become sort of a hot spot for opening up your own business, that would move them up the list in future studies."