How much student loan debt do dentists have?

Dentists have to make huge sacrifices to practice their trade. One of those sacrifices is the duration of education: surviving a bachelor’s degree + dental school + specialized training and residencies takes a long time. Another sacrifice – more importantly for the subject of this blog post – is the amount of student loan debt. According to a recent article published by the American Dental Education Association, the average new dentist comes out with $304,824 in student loan debt, with private school graduates coming out even worse at $349,730!

As might be expected, dentists are rewarded for all this work with a higher than average salary. Of the 139,200 dentists in the United States the average wage is $164,000 according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Outlook Handbook. But perhaps you have already seen the problem here: this annual salary is only half of the debt load coming out of school. This creates significant problems for new dentists trying to establish a practice, buy a home, start a family, or accomplish other goals they have delayed for so long.

This problem is magnified when one considers that most dentists are self-employed. According to research published by the American Dental Association in 2017, 80% of their practice owned their practice in 2015 (link). Although fewer dentists are choosing to be self-employed, this path represents a second significant investment for aspiring dentists. One that can compound the previously mentioned problems from a high student debt load.

Can dentists successfully manage their student loan debt?

Yes, of course. In addition to the many opportunities offered to federal student loan holders and strategies from student loan planners like Gradmetrics, there are specialized programs to help dentists manage their debt. After all, one of the great perks to pursuing a medical profession is the existence of many programs that incentivize professionals to enter the workforce in these roles. Our economy needs dentists; both the state and federal governments know this.

What special student loan repayment programs exist for dentists?

Strategies for dentists with student loans include:

  • Public Service Loan Forgiveness
  • Military programs (Army Dental Corps, U.S. Navy, U.S. Air Force Dental Health Profession Scholarship)
  • Indian Health Service Loan Repayment Program
  • HIS Loan Repayment
  • National Health Service Corps Loan Repayment Program
  • VA Student Loan Repayment Program
  • Private refinance opportunties (but a huge caution here: make sure you’re willing to sacrafice the perks of your federal student loans)

In addition to these opportunities, many states offer loan assistance programs for medical professions and dentists. Here is a great resource published by the American Dental Association. If you’re interested in talking more about these opportunities, contact us.

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