Best Cities for Dentists in the Midwest

Dentistry is one of the ten highest paying professions in the United States according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, but a paycheck isn't the only thing that matters when choosing a place to settle down. We dove into housing and income data across ten states in the Midwest to find out which cities offered the best overall value for dentists.

Our study ranked urban locations from 10 states in the Midwest based on several key characteristics, including salary information and real estate data. According to numbers from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average annual income for a dentist in the Midwest was $190,448 per year.

best large medium and small southern cities for dentists

Best Cities for Dentists in the Midwest

We scored the best cities in the Midwest for dentists by evaluating multiple variables, including income levels, housing data and economic strength. While every city demonstrated unique strengths and weaknesses, we ranked them on the basis of the best overall score. The top scoring cities and metropolitan statistical areas (MSA) are shown below.

RankLocationRatingAverage Income for Dentists
1Des Moines, IA71.9$210,020
2Detroit, MI66.6$187,100
3Rochester, MN66.4$256,620
4Sioux Falls, SD61.1$253,610
5Minneapolis-St. Paul, MN60.8$214,510

1. Des Moines, Iowa

The Des Moines-West Des Moines MSA ranked as the best city for dentists in the Midwest, thanks to the region's strong economic base, high demand for dentists and above-average dentist salaries. Des Moines is both the capital and most populous city in Iowa, and ranked as the second top scoring midwestern city by economic strength, according to POLICOM Corp.

The Greater Des Moines real estate market exhibited moderate growth between 2013 and 2018, and its property taxes were fairly high when compared to the national average. While it fell short in those areas, the region's high location quotient of 1.38 indicated a healthy demand for dental services and its strong economic base confirmed a consistent rate of growth. Des Moines is an excellent place for young dentists starting out, as the city also ranked as one of the best cities for young families in the United States.

2. Detroit, MI

While the Motor City has undergone its share of hardships in the past, the Detroit-Warren-Dearborn MSA came second in our study of best cities for dentists in the Midwest. Preliminary indications seem to show that the worst is now over in terms of the region's economic decline. In fact, the MSA scored very well in terms of home value appreciation, with local property values spiking by 41% over the past five years.

Detroit is the second most populous city in the Midwest and also has the second-highest number of dentist jobs available outside of Chicago. However, unlike the Windy City, the Detroit MSA had a location quotient of 1.32, which indicated a much greater demand for dentists when compared to Chicago's average quotient of 0.89. Dentists looking to be part of a rapidly revitalizing city should take a look at this rapidly expanding MSA.

3. Rochester, Minnesota

The only small city to make our list, Rochester, Minnesota, has an exceptional demand for dentists, reflected by the high median salary for dentists in the area, as well as its high location quotient of 1.39 for dental jobs. The median dentist income in Rochester is $256,620, which is the highest of any midwestern city in our entire study.

When considering dentist incomes in the area, homes in Rochester are very affordable. The typical dentist only needs to dedicate around 3.9% of their monthly salary toward their mortgage, assuming they take out a 30-year loan on the typical home in the region. Rochester also has a strong advantage in health care, as it's home to the Mayo Clinic, one of the world's largest nonprofit medical centers. The city also ranked as the 10th most-educated city in the United States.

4. Sioux Falls, South Dakota

Sioux Falls, South Dakota, was fourth on our list of best cities in the Midwest for dentists. This was largely due to its strong economy, high median dental income and excellent value proposition for dentists seeking to buy a home. Among the top 10 cities, ranked in order of economic strength, Sioux Falls was the only medium-sized city to make the list. Based on the area’s median property value, dentists need only pay 3.8% of their monthly salary toward a mortgage on the average Sioux Fall home.

Where Sioux Falls fell short was its low availability of homes for sale and high property tax rate, when compared to the national average. Based on the location quotient of 0.63, the area exhibits low demand for dentists. However, if you're lucky enough to land one of the 70+ dentist jobs in the area, you'll be paid top dollar, as dentists in the Sioux Falls region are paid the third-highest median income in the Midwest, at $253,610 per year.

5. Minneapolis-St. Paul, Minnesota

Rounding out our top five midwestern cities for dentists are the twin cities of Minneapolis-St. Paul, Minnesota. Also the third-most populous MSA in the Midwest, this region boasts over 1,100 dentists according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Dentists looking to settle in this MSA can look forward to above-average incomes, a strong local economy and healthy appreciation in the real estate market. The average home in the Minneapolis-St. Paul-Bloomington area rose by 33% between 2013 and 2018.

Median property values in this MSA now exceed the national average at $257,016, and the region has the sixth strongest economy in the Midwest. If you're a health-conscious dental professional who enjoys biking in the outdoors, you're in luck, as the greater Minneapolis MSA also ranked as our best city for bicyclists within the United States in 2016.

Midwestern Cities Where Dentists Earn the Most

Below is a list of the five midwestern cities where dentists are paid the most. Labor data from the BLS showed that annual income for dentists in the Midwest varied between $121,000 and $257,000. Dentists in the regions below earned over a quarter million dollars a year in some cases.

RankLocationAnnual Mean Wage
1Rochester, MN$256,620
2Fond du Lac, WI$256,230
3Sioux Falls, SD$253,610
4Eau Claire, WI$249,290
5Appleton, WI$243,230

Midwestern Cities with Fastest-Rising Property Values

A good way to gauge the health of a city is to evaluate the growth of its real estate market. Between 2013 and 2018, median home values in the following five regions reflected the fastest growth in the Midwest, with property values increasing by at least 30% over the same period.

RankLocation2013 Median Home Value2018 Median Home Value5-Year Change
1Ann Arbor, MI$169,763$254,60050%
2Detroit, MI$113,500$160,31641%
3Grand Forks, ND$141,252$188,23333%
4Minneapolis-St. Paul, MN$193,926$257,01633%
5Joplin, MO$97,510$126,54630%

Most Affordable Places in the Midwest for Homebuyers

A high salary, while attractive, can be tempered by high costs of living. To compensate for differences in income, we looked at locations based on how affordable they were for dentists, relative to their income. Mortgage payments in the following MSAs can cost as little as 3% of the average dentist's monthly income. We looked at the affordability of each location by comparing its median home value with the median dental monthly salary in the area.

RankLocationMonthly MortgageAverage Dentist IncomeHome Affordability Ratio
1St. Joseph, MO$526$238,7802.6%
2Flint, MI$464$207,7002.7%
3Youngstown, OH$483$190,3103.0%
4Battle Creek, MI$459$173,4403.2%
5Fond du Lac, WI$681$256,3203.2%

Monthly mortgage cost equals principal and interest for a 30-year loan at 5% with a 20% down payment on the local median home value.

Full List of Cities in the Midwest

In our analysis of the best cities for dentists in the Midwest, we reviewed all of the major metropolitan areas, as defined by the U.S. Census Bureau. Only cities and MSAs with available housing and income data were featured in our study. This left us with data from 61 cities and MSAs across the Midwest.

RankLocationOverall RatingAverage Income for Dentists
1Des Moines-West Des Moines, IA71.8$210,020
2Detroit-Warren-Dearborn, MI66.6$187,100
3Rochester, MN66.3$256,620
4Sioux Falls, SD61.0$253,610
5Minneapolis-St. Paul-Bloomington, MN-WI60.8$214,510
6Madison, WI60.5$212,680
7Columbus, OH60.4$209,520
8Monroe, MI59.1$220,080
9Columbia, MO58.6$242,690
10Kansas City, MO-KS58.4$184,960
11Fayetteville-Springdale-Rogers, AR-MO58.3$176,040
12Flint, MI57.5$207,700
13Grand Rapids-Wyoming, MI57.0$174,960
14Milwaukee-Waukesha-West Allis, WI56.5$227,040
15Fond du Lac, WI55.5$256,230
16South Bend-Mishawaka, IN-MI55.3$218,340
17Grand Forks, ND-MN55.3$187,670
18Eau Claire, WI55.0$249,290
19Cincinnati, OH-KY-IN53.9$200,400
20Lincoln, NE53.8$168,450
21Appleton, WI53.0$243,230
22Indianapolis-Carmel-Anderson, IN52.6$150,620
23Mankato-North Mankato, MN50.1$208,440
24Wausau, WI49.7$227,750
25Omaha-Council Bluffs, NE-IA49.4$164,720
26St. Louis, MO-IL49.2$174,190
27Chicago-Naperville-Elgin, IL-IN-WI48.4$155,110
28Akron, OH48.3$203,500
29Ann Arbor, MI48.0$188,770
30Sheboygan, WI47.5$237,580
31Racine, WI47.0$209,450
32Wichita, KS47.0$196,480
33Lima, OH46.6$177,560
34Kalamazoo-Portage, MI46.5$184,120
35Springfield, MO46.2$152,340
36St. Joseph, MO-KS45.6$238,780
37Rockford, IL45.5$205,610
38Louisville/Jefferson County, KY-IN45.0$155,660
39Sioux City, IA-NE-SD44.8$148,800
40Lafayette-West Lafayette, IN44.3$160,930
41Canton-Massillon, OH43.7$196,550
42Dayton, OH43.0$196,570
43Springfield, IL43.0$146,290
44Decatur, IL42.5$165,680
45Rapid City, SD42.4$140,490
46St. Cloud, MN42.1$214,960
47Toledo, OH41.8$161,710
48Lansing-East Lansing, MI41.6$167,880
49Joplin, MO41.5$141,930
50Cleveland-Elyria, OH40.4$164,550
51Janesville-Beloit, WI39.7$206,210
52Huntington-Ashland, WV-KY-OH39.4$178,760
53Peoria, IL39.0$182,720
54Oshkosh-Neenah, WI38.9$179,570
55Davenport-Moline-Rock Island, IA-IL38.6$163,090
56Youngstown-Warren-Boardman, OH-PA37.3$190,310
57Battle Creek, MI35.4$173,440
58Muskegon, MI32.1$127,340
59Elkhart-Goshen, IN30.5$121,070
60Duluth, MN-WI28.8$185,980
61Mansfield, OH27.9$170,650


We looked at 61 cities and MSAs across 10 states in the Midwest region, as defined by the U.S. Census Bureau. We ranked each city across seven variables, scored the results and totaled them to obtain an overall rating. All of the entries were then ranked according to magnitude, and the top scores were recorded above.

Large, medium and small cities are defined as regions with populations of over 500,000, 250,000 to 500,000, or below 250,000, respectively.

  • Mean Wage: Locations were ranked by median absolute dentist income. Larger mean figures received higher scores.
  • Location Quotient: Location quotient reflects the concentration of dentists as a percentage of all occupations in a given area. Higher location quotients indicate a higher density and greater demand for dentists. Higher location quotients received higher scores.
  • Value Appreciation The strength of a local real estate market was evaluated based on its rate of growth over the past five years. Higher rates of appreciation received higher scores.
  • Vacancy for Sale: This reflects the percentage of local homes that are available for sale or vacant at any given time. Higher rates indicated more available housing and a higher score.
  • Costs of Ownership: The ratio of property taxes to home value was used to gauge the cost of homeownership. The higher the ratio, the more expenses a homeowner can reasonably expect over time. Regions with higher tax ratios received lower scores.
  • Affordability: Due to differences in real estate markets, it's difficult to measure property values on an absolute basis; we therefore compared median monthly dentist salaries with projected mortgage payments based on average local property values. The resulting synthetic debt-to-income measures were then recorded and ranked. Higher ratios received lower scores.
  • Economic Strength: Cities and MSAs with high ratings exhibited high rates of consistent growth over time. We ranked each location in accordance with the economic strength rankings provided by POLICOM Corp.'s 2018 survey on Metropolitan/Micropolitan Economic Strength. Higher ratings received higher scores.

Due to the potential for double-counting and lurking variables, we chose to overweight and underweight certain measures to help improve our findings. For example, a high vacancy for sale rate indicates that a high supply of properties is available to homebuyers, but could also mean that local properties are overpriced or otherwise undesirable. As a result, we chose to underweight vacancy for sale scores while overweighting economic strength scores to control for this factor, and ensure that we best measured the long-term viability of a region.

All employment and salary data was obtained from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, while housing data was obtained from S&P Global Market Intelligence. Cities and MSAs for which occupation or housing data were not available were not considered in our study.

Kenny Zhu

Kenny covers Banking and Mortgage content for ValuePenguin and has worked in the financial industry since 2013. He produces studies, guides and opinion pieces on consumer finance. Prior to joining ValuePenguin, Kenny was a Senior Investment Analyst at PFM Asset Management LLC, where he helped manage fixed income portfolios on behalf of public sector clients. He holds a Bachelors of Science from Carnegie Mellon University, where he majored in International Relations & Politics.

Editorial Note: The content of this article is based on the author’s opinions and recommendations alone. It has not been previewed, commissioned or otherwise endorsed by any of our network partners.

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