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The average dental school debt among class of 2020 dental school graduates was $304,824, according to a survey by the American Dental Education Association.
That average includes dentists with any type of student debt — including from undergraduate studies. More than 80% of dental school students in the class of 2020 took on dental school loans, according to the ADEA.
» MORE: Student loan debt statistics
With a $304,000 student loan balance, you’d owe more than $3,529 per month on a 10-year repayment plan, assuming a 7% interest rate.
How to pay off dental school debt
Even with a dentist’s salary, paying thousands of dollars per month can be a squeeze. If you need to improve your cash flow — to start a dental practice or achieve a different goal — consider these strategies to pay off dental school loans:
If you need lower monthly payments: Federal income-driven repayment plans cap your monthly payment at 10% to 20% of your income and extend your loan repayment period from 10 years to 20 or 25 years, depending on the plan. They also forgive the balance remaining at the end of your repayment period, but you’ll owe taxes on the forgiven amount.
If you work in the public sector or an underserved area: Multiple federal and state programs offer dental school debt forgiveness for dentists who work in the public sector or an underserved area for a certain period of time. The most popular is Public Service Loan Forgiveness, which offers tax-free loan forgiveness to borrowers who make 10 years’ worth of payments while working for the government or a nonprofit.
If you have excellent credit: Refinancing dental school loans can lower your interest rate, which can save you money and help you become debt-free faster. You typically need a credit score in the high 600s to qualify and a higher score to get the lowest advertised rates. Refinanced federal student loans aren’t eligible for federal programs including income-driven repayment and Public Service Loan Forgiveness.