If you like to put your money where your mouth is, there's probably no better (or more literal) way to do so than to invest in stocks that focus on dentistry. But if you also like to get money back in the form of dividends, there aren't too many choices available among dental stocks.

The three top dividend stocks in the dentistry industry are Patterson Companies (NASDAQ:PDCO), Zimmer Biomet Holdings (NYSE:ZBH), and Danaher (NYSE:DHR). But two of these, Zimmer Biomet and Danaher, pay out only small dividends.

However, if you expand your definition of "dentistry industry" to include dental-care products like toothpaste and dental floss, several dividend stocks can be added to the list; Procter & Gamble (NYSE:PG), Johnson & Johnson (NYSE:JNJ), and Colgate-Palmolive (NYSE:CL) rank at the top. Here's how these stocks compare, and which stand out as the best dividend stocks in dentistry.

Smiling woman undergoing dental exam

Image source: Getty Images.

The core dentistry stocks

Patterson, Zimmer Biomet, and Danaher all sell products directly to the core dentistry market. Patterson is a distributor of dental supplies. Zimmer Biomet makes dental implants and prosthetics. Danaher develops and markets several dental products, including implants, prosthetics, orthodontic bracket systems, and endodontic systems. None of these companies focuses exclusively on the dentistry industry, though.

Patterson generates about 46% of its total revenue from its dental segment, with the remainder coming from its animal-health business. Zimmer Biomet makes a little less than 6% of its total sales from its dental products, generating most of its revenue from knee- and hip-replacement products. Dental products make up roughly 16% of Danaher's total sales, with the company's life sciences and diagnostics businesses ranking as its top moneymakers.

The best dividend stock among the three is clearly Patterson: Its dividend yield currently stands at 2.43%. Patterson's dividend payout ratio is a healthy 52%, which indicates the company should be able to increase its dividend in the future.

Zimmer Biomet, on the other hand, has a dividend yield of only 0.82%, and Danaher's dividend yield of 0.68% is even lower. Both companies, though, should be able to roll out dividend hikes if they choose to do so. Zimmer Biomet currently uses 39% of its earnings to fund the dividend program, while Danaher uses less than 19% of its earnings to pay out dividends.

The dental-care stocks

Procter & Gamble's Crest and Oral-B products generate much of the company's sales in the healthcare segment. Johnson & Johnson's oral-care segment consists entirely of its Listerine products, including mouthwash, toothpaste, and dental floss. Colgate-Palmolive is known for its Colgate toothpaste brand.

As is the case with Patterson, Zimmer Biomet, and Danaher, these dental-care stocks make most of their revenue outside of the dental industry. P&G makes 60% of its total revenue from fabric- and home-care products such as Tide and Cascade, and baby, feminine, and family care products including Pampers, Tampax, and Bounty. Prescription drugs are the top revenue generator for Johnson & Johnson. Colgate-Palmolive's oral-care products generate less than half of the company's total revenue, with its personal-care, home-care, and pet-nutrition products contributing the rest of its revenue.

Procter & Gamble's dividend yield of 3.2% ranks as the highest of the three stocks. Johnson & Johnson's dividend currently yields 2.65%. Colgate-Palmolive's dividend yield stands at 2.15%.

P&G has a dividend payout ratio of nearly 75%. J&J is using a relatively low 54% of earnings to fund its dividend program. Colgate-Palmolive has a similar payout ratio of 56%.

Best of the best

Neither Zimmer Biomet nor Danaher is a bad stock, but their dividends simply aren't high enough to make either attractive to dividend-seeking investors. That leaves Patterson as the top dividend stock from the core dentistry group. Procter & Gamble, Johnson & Johnson, and Colgate-Palmolive are all Dividend Aristocrats and therefore great dividend picks.

None of the companies' payout ratios disqualify them, so that leaves yield as the deciding factor as to which are the best. Therefore, Patterson, Procter & Gamble, and Johnson & Johnson take the top spots. If I could only pick one of these stocks, I'd go with Procter & Gamble. Not only does P&G have the highest yield of these three finalists, but the company has also increased its dividend for 60 consecutive years -- longer even than J&J's impressive 54-year streak.

This article represents the opinion of the writer, who may disagree with the “official” recommendation position of a Motley Fool premium advisory service. We’re motley! Questioning an investing thesis -- even one of our own -- helps us all think critically about investing and make decisions that help us become smarter, happier, and richer.