Dental earnings and expenses estimates UK 2015/16, initial analysis

Date published: 13 September 2017

NHS Digital today released details of the earnings and expenses of General Dental Services (GDS) dentists in Northern Ireland in 2015/16. This is the ninth time this data has been produced for Northern Ireland.


Previously, separate country reports were produced. The Earnings and Expenses report has been published as a UK report for each of the past four years. The report structure consists of two releases of a UK Report that contains data for all countries. This first release of initial analysis will be followed by a second UK release of additional analysis in October. Below we present key points for Northern Ireland only.

Note, differing contractual arrangements across the four countries mean that direct comparison between countries should not be made.

Note, the source for all figures is NHS Digital.

Key Points on GDS Earnings and Expenses in Northern Ireland 2015/16

The report presents key findings in terms of average taxable income, average expenses and average gross earnings for Principal and Associate dentists.    

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 2015/16 are given below.


  • Average taxable income (gross earnings minus expenses, before income tax) for Principal dentists was £117,600 compared to £111,700 in 2014/15 (an increase of 5.3%); and for Associate dentists was £54,200 compared to £54,000 in 2014/15 (an increase of 0.3%) [1]. 
  • For all self-employed dentists (Principals and Associates) the average taxable earnings were £69,400 compared to £70,500 in 2014/15 (a decrease of 1.4%)1.  The drop in taxable income is due to gross earnings decreasing in line with total expenses; the general trend since 2008/09 has been for gross earnings to decrease more than total expenses.
  • Average expenses [2] (business expenses allowable for tax purposes) for Principal dentists were £218,400 compared to £217,000 in 2014/15 (an increase of 0.6%); and for Associate dentists were £44,700 compared to £36,100 in 2014/15 (an increase of 23.7%).
  • Average gross earnings (self-employment income before deduction of expenses) for Principal dentists were £336,000 compared to £328,700 in 2014/15 (an increase of 2.2%); and for Associate dentists were £98,900 compared to £90,200 in 2014/15 (an increase of 9.7%)1.
  • The Expenses to Earnings Ratio (EER)2 for Principal dentists was 65% compared to 66% in 2014/15 (a change of -1.0 percentage points); for Associate dentists the EER was 45.2% compared to 40.1% in 2014/15 (a change of +5.1 percentage points).  The EER for all dentists was 55.4%, the same as in 2014/15. The EER is the proportion of gross earnings taken up by expenses.
  • Where statistically permissible, comparisons for the main findings have been made with the 2014/15 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, in addition to looking at changes in percentage terms.   

Notes to editors: 

1. Dental Earnings and Expenses Estimates UK 2015/16, Initial Analysis is published on the NHS Digital internet site only at:

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, the new trading name of The Health and Social Care Information Centre, 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. These 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. Data sources used in report production: (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 on 028-90 520074. Out of hours please contact the duty press officer via pager number 07623 974383 and your call will be returned.

[1] Within the reports, percentage changes presented are calculated on unrounded data, while all earning and expenses data are rounded by NHS Digital to the nearest £100

[2] 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.

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