Dental Earnings and Expenses Estimates, 2021/22

Date published: 27 July 2023

NHS England [1] today released details of the earnings and expenses of General Dental Services (GDS) dentists in Northern Ireland in 2021/22.

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This is the fifteenth set of earnings and expenses data that have 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 nine years.  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 England.

Key Points on GDS Earnings and Expenses Estimates in Northern Ireland 2021/22:

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. 

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 2021/22 are given below.  Where statistically permissible, comparisons for the main findings have been made with the 2020/21 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.  In addition, 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 July 2020. This was followed by a period of recovery and restoration of services throughout the remainder of 2020/21.  Restrictions and activity thresholds throughout 2021/22 will have continued to impact on earnings and expenses.

  • Average taxable income (gross earnings minus expenses, before income tax) for all self-employed GDS dentists (Principals and Associates) was estimated to be £77,200[2] in 2021/22.  This was a 6.4% increase compared with 2020/21 (£72,500).  This annual change was not statistically significant3.
  • Average taxable income for Principal dentists was £138,800 in 2021/22 compared with £122,000 in 2020/21 (an increase of 13.8% - not statistically significant); and for Associate dentists was £60,700 in 2021/22 compared with £59,500 in 2020/21 (an increase of 2.0% - not statistically significant). 
  • In 2021/22, average gross earnings for all self-employed dentists was estimated to be £158,000 and average expenses4 (business expenses allowable for tax purposes) estimated as £80,800.   This equates to an Expenses to Earnings Ratio (EER) of 51.2% (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 £59,600, 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 £88,100 and £116,900 respectively. 
  • As in previous years, regardless of dental type classification, male dentists had higher average gross earnings and taxable income than their female counterparts. Female Principal dentists had higher average total expenses (£250,200) than their male counterparts (£243,400).  It is important to note that the report includes both full-time and part-time dental earnings and expenses.  Previous reports have shown that on average male dentists tend to work longer weekly hours than female counterparts and this could be a contributory factor to the differences observed.
  • For all male self-employed GDS dentists, average taxable income was £101,000, compared with £61,000 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 2021/22, consistent with the results from 2020/21, the four largest expense categories were Other5 (46.8%), Employee (35.1%), Premises (6.5%) and Office and General Business (6.2%).



Notes to editors: 

1. Dental Earnings and Expenses Estimates 2021/22 is published on the NHS England internet site only at: Dental Earnings and Expenses Estimates

2.  Note, NHS England 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 Strategic Planning and Performance Group, Department of Health.  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 England 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 report was produced by NHS England, 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.

Further explanation:

[1] This publication was previously produced by NHS Digital; Health Education England, NHS Digital and NHS England have now merged into a single organisation, to be known as NHS England

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

3 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

4 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.

5 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.

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