How to Tip Your Dentist: A Guide

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While many European countries have well-paid dental staff, here in America, tipping is considered customary. Most dentists would be offended if you didn’t tip at least 18% for good dental service. We’ve all fumbled at least once before: tipping before the x-ray, tipping on a card instead of cash, only tipping a few bucks – so embarrassing! We’ve gathered some anonymous dentists to tell us when, how, and why to tip appropriately.


Before a cleaning:

Be a savvy patient and don’t ask what the price is until after everything is over. The bloodier your mouth, the less questions you should ask, and the more cash you should have on-hand for a quick and easy tip exchange.


After a cleaning:

Average Service: At least 15%. “People see the auto-gratuity on their $300 cleaning bill and think ‘Oh, they didn’t ask me,’ but it’s not enough to cover my boat collection,” says Dr. Michael Fein, DDS, of Burlington, Vermont.


If they give you a new spinny toothbrush at the end: 50% on the total. “Those things cost a lot more than you think,” says Dr. Fein.


If they give you a new regular toothbrush at the end: A few dollars. “We only give regular toothbrushes to people who look poor, anyway,” says Dr. Fein. “So no sweat.”



After an X-ray:

Average Service: $1 per minute. “Back when I was practicing in New York, and someone was whining the whole time about being uncomfortable or said that the lead vest was too heavy, I would take off my scrubs at the end of the day and want to wring someone’s neck if they didn’t tip,” says Roy Scheeder, DDS.

If they include the pan X-ray even though your insurance doesn’t cover it and you told them that: 2% of their annual salary. “I’m exhausted. Think about the effort I had to put in to get you here,” says Dr. Seth Raab, DDS. “I do this all day. You’re only seeing me for a part of my day. You know? Also I make $187,000 a year.”


After a wisdom teeth removal:

Average Service: 20% and up. “Depends how many friends you have in the lobby waiting to shoot Vines of you being ‘hilarious’ after your surgery. If it’s four people deep and I’m gonna have to give my common sense spiel over and over, and that’s gonna take some time,” says Dr. Ronald M. Buchart, DDS, of Montclair, New Jersey. “That’s money I could be making on a new patient. You have to think of this from our perspective.”


If you cry: 25%. “No one even thinks about how the emotional aspects of my job could impact my family,” explains Dr. Stephen Zhang, DDS, of St. Paul, Minnesota. “I’m a dentist, not your therapist.”


Sometimes we get caught up in the fun of going to the dentist that we forget to tip. It’s important to remember that people with medical degrees need our support just as much as the barista with a Ph.D. down the block.