Does Dental School Worth the Students Loan?

Okoma V.
10 Min Read

Dental school can be a stepping stone to a prosperous career, but it comes to is dental school worth it even with all the expenses.

The average dental school debt for the class of 2020 was $304,824, making it one of the most expensive degrees available.


Fortunately, when it comes to paying, dentists have a high ceiling. Consider all of the costs and whether the return on investment is worthwhile before applying to dental school.

What is the Average Dental School Debt?

So, what does it cost to train as a dentist? The average dental school debt for recent graduates is $304,824, according to data published by the ADEA.

This is substantially more than the average graduate school debt, which is $91,148 for federal borrowers, according to


Of course, it is possible to graduate with less debt than the average student, but the high costs of dental school are difficult to avoid.

In the 2019-20 academic year, the American Dental Association (ADA) estimates the average cost of dental school in the first year, including tuition and fees, to be $55,395 for locals and $72,219 for non-residents. Consider a public dental school rather than a private college to keep fees down.

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According to the ADA data, the average cost of dental school for the first year in public programs is $41,711, compared to $75,161 for first-year private dental programs.

Take the time to look into your options so you can find the school that will provide you with the best value for your money. You can also look for ways to earn scholarships and grants to help you pay for your education.

Read also: List of the Most Expensive Dental Schools in the World


What are the Average Interest rates on Dental School Loans?

The typical interest rate for dentistry school loans varies depending on the student loan type. For example, rates on federal student loans are standardized, so you know precisely what rate you’ll get before you apply.

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On the other hand, depending on the lender and your credit position, private loans might have a wide variety of interest rates.

Federal student loan interest rates

While federal student loan interest rates are standardized, they’re updated once a year based on larger economic trends. With that said, the rate you receive when you take out your loan will be the rate you pay throughout that loan’s repayment. Here’s a history of rates by loan program.

Private Student Loan Interest rates

In most circumstances, federal student loans are the best option because they offer income-driven repayment schedules, forbearance periods, and forgiveness opportunities.


However, you may have reached the government’s borrowing cap, or your credit position may be excellent enough to secure better terms from a private lender.

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Your interest rates will be determined by the lender and your credit position in this case. Private student loan interest rates range from around 1% to slightly under 13% as of September 2021.

Private student loans can also come with either fixed or variable interest rates. Variable rates typically start lower, making them more appealing.

But over time, that rate can increase, potentially costing you more money. Fixed rates will remain the same over the life of your loan, making them the lower-risk choice.

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Interest capitalization

Whether you take out federal or private student loans, the majority of them will accrue interest while you are in school. Direct Subsidized Loans, which are offered to undergraduate students in financial need, are the only exception to this requirement.

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When you graduate and your grace period ends, your lender will capitalize the interest on your account, adding it to the total and increasing both the amount you owe and the amount on which your future interest payments will be calculated.

School YearDirect Loans for Undergraduate StudentsDirect Loans for Graduate and Professional StudentsDirect PLUS Loans for Parents and Graduate and Professional Students
Dental student loan interest rates

How long does it take to repay Dental School loans?

The length of time it takes you to repay your dental school debt is determined by a number of factors. You can set your payback period for private student loans ahead of time, with possibilities ranging from five to twenty years.

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If you have private student loans and can’t afford the monthly payments under your current repayment schedule, refinancing your loans is your only option for a longer repayment period.


The normal repayment plan for federal student loans is ten years. However, with such a large average dental school debt, keeping up with payments on that repayment timeline may be quite challenging. Fortunately, the federal student loan program offers 30-year repayment choices.

Repayment PlanRepayment Term
Consolidation LoanUp to 30 years
Extended25 years
Pay as You Earn20 years
Revised Pay as You EarnUp to 25 years
Income-BasedUp to 25 years
Income-Contingent25 years
Repayment plans and terms

Your monthly payment will be limited to a percentage of your discretionary income with income-driven repayment plans like Pay As You Earn, Revised Pay As You Earn, Income-Based Repayment, and Income-Contingent Repayment.

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You’ll be pardoned any remaining balance after your payback period.

Read also: What is The Average Pharmacy School Debt?


What is the Average Salary of a Dentist?

The average yearly compensation for a dentist is $180,830, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). That is not, however, what you can expect right away.

A dentist’s beginning income, according to the New York State Department of Labor, is closer to $100,000.

Without a longer repayment period or an income-driven repayment plan, it will be more difficult to keep up with your student loan payments at the start of your job. However, as you gain more experience, your salary will rise.

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How do I reduce my Dental School Debt?

Dentists have plenty of opportunities to pay down their dental school debt after they’ve graduated. It’s even possible to get help from outside sources.

Student loan forgiveness

If you have federal student loans, you may qualify for the Public Service Loan Forgiveness program. The program will discharge your debt after you make 120 qualifying monthly payments on an income-driven repayment plan while working full-time for qualifying government or not-for-profit organizations.


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Student loan repayment assistance

While not considered forgiveness, since it’s not coming from the Department of Education, student loan repayment assistance is available from select government agencies, including the Armed Forces.

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The ADEA maintains a list of student loan repayment programs for dentists on its website, organized by state and federal agencies.

Student loan refinancing

To be eligible for forgiveness or repayment help, you must have federal student loans. If you’re not qualified for these programs for other reasons, or if you took out private student loans, refinancing your student loans can be a better option.


Student loan refinancing is the process of using a private lender to replace one or more existing student loans with new ones.

Student loan refinances rates may be lower than what you’re paying today, depending on your finances and credit, as well as the rates on your current debt. You can also use refinancing to secure a longer repayment period, making your monthly payment more manageable.

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Is Dental School Worth it?

The decision to become a dentist is a personal one, but it’s important to weigh all of the advantages and disadvantages of attending dental school.

As you research the cost of attending dental school, graduate school loan rates and your projected salary, you’ll have a better understanding of is dental school worth it on investment for you.

Read also: 8 Student Loan Alternatives to Pay for College Tuition without Owing



Your current and future financial situation is one of the most important factors to consider.


Bureau of Labor Statistics

NYS Dept. of Labor

American Dental Association


Education Data

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