Dental earnings and expenses estimates, 2020/21

Date published: 17 August 2022

NHS Digital today released details of the earnings and expenses of General Dental Services (GDS) dentists in Northern Ireland in 2020/21. This is the fourteenth set of earnings and expenses data that have been produced for Northern Ireland.

doh latest statistics

Previously, separate country reports were produced; the Earnings and Expenses report has been published as a UK report for each of the past eight years.  This is the fifth year that the entire series of the Dental Earnings and Expenses Estimates has been published in one instalment.  In previous years, this report was issued in two instalments, entitled Initial Analysis and Additional Analysis.  Below we present key points for Northern Ireland only.

It is important to note that values are not comparable between countries due to differing contractual arrangements and the use of different methods to determine dental type in each country.

Note, the source for all figures is NHS Digital.

Key Points on GDS Earnings and Expenses Estimates in Northern Ireland 2020/21

The report presents key findings in terms of average gross earnings, total expenses, and taxable income estimates by dental type and contract type for dentists in Northern Ireland.  The report also contains a detailed breakdown of expenses by dental type, age, gender and activity demographics.  The Dental Working Patterns Survey was not carried out in 2020/21 due to the impact on working hours during the COVID-19 pandemic.  Additional analyses based on data usually collected by the survey such as weekly working hours, percentage of time spent on NHS dentistry and business arrangement were therefore not available for the 2020/21 report.

The first cases of COVID-19 in the UK were confirmed late January 2020 and the first UK-wide lockdown was announced in March 2020. Most routine dentistry was paused between April and June 2020. This was followed by a period of recovery and restoration of services throughout the remainder of 2020/21.  The pandemic is also likely to have impacted on expenses incurred during this period.

It is not meaningful to discuss the average earnings of an average dentist, as there is great variation in the different financial arrangements.  However, the key findings among self-employed GDS Northern Ireland dentists in 2020/21 are given below.  Where statistically permissible, comparisons for the main findings have been made with the 2019/20 results; however, comparisons should be made with caution.  Factors which can affect comparisons include: changes in the dental workforce, changes in type and volume of activity per dentist, changes to allowances, and VAT changes. It is also necessary to consider the absolute changes between years, as well as changes in percentage terms.  

  • average taxable income (gross earnings minus expenses, before income tax) for all self-employed GDS dentists (Principals and Associates) was estimated to be £72,500 (1) in 2020/21.  This was an 11.3% increase compared with 2019/20 (£65,100).  This annual change was not statistically significant (2).
  • average taxable income for Principal dentists was £122,000 in 2020/21 compared with £99,200 in 2019/20 (an increase of 23.0% - not statistically significant); and for Associate dentists was £59,500 in 2020/21 compared with £57,200 in 2019/20 (an increase of 3.9% - not statistically significant). 
  • in 2020/21, average gross earnings for all self-employed dentists was estimated to be £138,400 and average expenses (3) (business expenses allowable for tax purposes) estimated as £65,900.   This equates to an Expenses to Earnings Ratio (EER) of 47.6% (i.e. the proportion of gross earnings taken up by expenses).
  • for all self-employed dentists (Principals and Associates), the lowest combined average taxable income (from Health Service and Private Dentistry), of £58,800, was reported for those dentists whose Health Service earnings accounted for at least 75% of their total gross earnings.  Those whose Health Service earnings accounted for 25% or less and between 25% and 75% of their total gross earnings had taxable incomes of £86,600 and £107,700 respectively. 
  • as in previous years, regardless of dental type classification, male dentists had higher average gross earnings, total expenses, and taxable income than their female counterparts.  For all male self-employed GDS dentists, average taxable income was £93,600, compared with £56,800 for all female self-employed GDS dentists. 
  • dentists aged over 45 had the highest average gross earnings, total expenses and taxable income. 
  • for all self-employed GDS dentists in 2020/21, consistent with the results from 2019/20, the four largest expense categories were Other (4) (53.9%), Employee (25.6%), Office and General Business (9.2%) and (Premises 6.8%).

(1) Within the report, percentage changes presented are calculated on unrounded data, while all earning and expenses data are rounded by NHS Digital to the nearest £100.

(2) As these results are based on a sample of dentists, year-on-year differences between income before tax estimates have been tested for statistical significance at a 95 per cent confidence level. An increase or decrease in estimates that is statistically significant is likely to be a genuine change, rather than resulting from chance, and means that users can have greater confidence that any apparent differences are applicable to the entire population in question.

(3) Note that a designated dentist in each practice is paid a practice allowance under GDS to help address the increasing running costs of health service dental practices in relation to the provision of high quality premises, health and safety, staffing support and information collection and provision.  For technical reasons, it has not been possible to off-set this allowance against expenses and the expense element will therefore be inflated.

(4) The other category includes a variety of expenses including laboratory costs, materials costs, advertising, promotion and entertainment, bad debts, alternative finance payments, interest for businesses where annual turnover is less than £85,000, and expenses for businesses where turnover is low and a more detailed breakdown is not available.

Notes to editors: 

1. Dental Earnings and Expenses Estimates 2020/21 is published on the NHS Digital internet site only.

2.  Note, NHS Digital must be quoted as the source of all figures.

3. The Earnings and Expenses Ratio (EER) is a measure of how much of an individual’s gross earnings was consumed by business expenses.

4. General dental practitioners are independent contractors who have undertaken to provide dental treatment and appliances on behalf of the Health and Social Care Board.  Currently in Northern Ireland, there is only one type of contract under which these dentists can operate, that is, General Dental Services (GDS).  Under GDS they have to provide a full range of mandatory dental services.  A self-employed Principal dentist is also the practice owner/partner; an Associate dentist is a self-employed dentist that enters into a contractual arrangement with a Principal that is neither partnership nor employment.

5. NHS Digital is England’s authoritative, independent source of health and social care information.  Its role is to collect data, analyse it and convert it into useful information which helps providers improve their services and supports academics, researchers, regulators and policymakers in their work.

6. The reports were produced by NHS Digital, in consultation with a working group comprised of representatives from all the Health Departments, all devolved Governments, business support organisations for each country, the British Dental Association, the Doctors and Dentists’ Review Body, Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs and specialists in dental accounting and law.

7. The data sources used in report production were: (i) raw data containing activity and demographic information on dentists in Northern Ireland provided by the Business Services Organisation were used to derive the dental population; and (ii) self-assessment tax data held and analysed by HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) statisticians.

8.  For media enquiries please contact the DoH Press Office at by email

9. Follow us on Twitter @healthdpt.

10. The Executive Information Service operates an out of hours service for media enquiries only between 1800hrs and 0800hrs Monday to Friday and at weekends and public holidays. The Duty Press Officer can be contacted on 028 9037 8110.

Share this page

Back to top