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7 Best Dental School Loans of May 2024

Dental students facing heavy debt should opt for federal loans.

NerdWallet
By
Last updated on July 10, 2023
Edited by
✅ Fact checked and reviewed
Des Toups
Edited by
✅ Fact checked and reviewed

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Best Dental School Loans

Lender
NerdWallet Rating
Min. credit score
Fixed APR
Variable APR
Learn more
Federal Subsidized/Unsubsidized Loan

Federal Subsidized/Unsubsidized Loan

Read review
Best for Most borrowers as a first option

None

5.50-7.05%

N/A

Federal Grad PLUS Loan

Federal Grad PLUS Loan

5.0
/5
Best for Manageable payments post-graduation

None

7.54-7.54%

N/A

Sallie Mae Undergraduate Student Loan

Sallie Mae Undergraduate Student Loan

COMPARE RATES
on Credible’s website
on Credible’s website
4.5
/5
Best for Dental students with excellent credit

Mid-600's

4.50-15.49%

6.37-16.70%

COMPARE RATES
on Credible’s website
on Credible’s website
College Ave Dental Student Loan

College Ave Dental Student Loan

COMPARE RATES
on Credible’s website
on Credible’s website
5.0
/5
Best for Dental students with excellent credit

Mid-600s

4.07-14.47%

5.59-14.47%

COMPARE RATES
on Credible’s website
on Credible’s website
MPOWER Private Student Loan

MPOWER Private Student Loan

4.0
/5
Best for International dental students

None

13.74-15.01%

N/A

Our pick for

Most borrowers as a first option

If low-cost federal health professions student loans aren’t available, start with federal direct unsubsidized loans to pay for dental school.

Federal Subsidized/Unsubsidized Loan
Read review
Federal Subsidized/Unsubsidized Loan

Federal Subsidized/Unsubsidized Loan

5.0
Min. credit score

None

Fixed APR

5.50-7.05%

Variable APR

N/A

Key facts

Graduate students can receive only unsubsidized direct loans. They can take out up to $20,500 annually, which may not be enough to cover your dental school bill.

Pros
  • More flexible repayment options for struggling borrowers than other lenders.
  • Subsidized loans do not collect interest while in school or during deferment.
  • Lower interest rates than many private lenders.
Cons
  • You pay an origination fee.
Qualifications
  • No credit check or minimum income is needed to borrow.
  • Loan amounts for undergraduates: $5,500 year one, $6,500 year two, $7,500 year three and thereafter, up to a total of $31,000
  • Independent students and graduate students have higher loan limits.
  • Undergraduate interest rate fixed at 3.73%, while grad students get higher 5.28% rate
Available Term Lengths10 to 25 years once repayment begins, depending on the repayment plan.
Read Full Review

Our pick for

Manageable payments post-graduation

Grad PLUS loans offer income-driven plans that can cap your bills at 10% of your discretionary income, but repayment terms can last up to 25 years.

Federal Grad PLUS Loan

Federal Grad PLUS Loan

Min. credit score

None

Fixed APR

7.54-7.54%

Variable APR

N/A

Key facts

Grad PLUS loans have higher interest rates and fees than unsubsidized loans but let you borrow more money.

Pros
  • More flexible repayment options for struggling borrowers compared with private lenders.
  • All borrowers who attend a school authorized to receive federal aid can qualify.
Cons
  • May have higher interest rates compared with private lenders.
  • You pay an origination fee.
  • You can’t see if you’ll qualify without a hard credit check.
Qualifications
  • Grad PLUS loan borrowers must not have adverse credit history.
  • Borrowers with adverse credit history can still receive a grad PLUS loan by enlisting a co-signer without adverse credit history or documenting extenuating circumstances for their credit history.
  • Loan amounts: Total cost of attendance minus other financial aid.
Available Term Lengths10 to 25 years once repayment begins, depending on the repayment plan.

Our pick for

Dental students with excellent credit

Sallie Mae Undergraduate Student Loan

Sallie Mae Undergraduate Student Loan

4.5
Min. credit score

Mid-600's

Fixed APR

4.50-15.49%

Variable APR

6.37-16.70%

Key facts

Rating and details displayed are for Sallie Mae's undergraduate student loan. Dental students can receive a residency deferment of up to 48 months.

Pros
  • One of the few lenders to provide loans to part-time students.
  • Non-U.S. citizens, including DACA students, who live in the U.S. and attend school in the U.S. can apply with a qualified co-signer who is a U.S. citizen or permanent resident.
Cons
  • You can't see if you’ll qualify and what rate you’ll get without a hard credit check.
Qualifications
  • Typical credit score of approved borrowers or co-signers: Does not disclose.
  • Minimum income: Did not disclose.
  • Loan amounts: $1,000 up to 100% of the school-certified expenses.
Available Term Lengths10 to 15 years
DisclaimerLowest rates shown include the auto debit. Advertised APRs for undergraduate students assume a $10,000 loan to a student who attends school for 4 years and has no prior Sallie Mae-serviced loans. Interest rates for variable rate loans may increase or decrease over the life of the loan based on changes to the 30-day Average Secured Overnight Financing Rate (SOFR) rounded up to the nearest one-eighth of one percent. Advertised variable rates are the starting range of rates and may vary outside of that range over the life of the loan. Interest is charged starting when funds are sent to the school. With the Fixed and Deferred Repayment Options, the interest rate is higher than with the Interest Repayment Option and Unpaid Interest is added to the loan’s Current Principal at the end of the grace/separation period. To receive a 0.25 percentage point interest rate discount, the borrower or cosigner must enroll in auto debit through Sallie Mae. The discount applies only during active repayment for as long as the Current Amount Due or Designated Amount is successfully withdrawn from the authorized bank account each month. It may be suspended during forbearance or deferment. Advertised APRs are valid as of 2/26/2024. Loan amounts: For applications submitted directly to Sallie Mae, loan amount cannot exceed the cost of attendance less financial aid received, as certified by the school. Applications submitted to Sallie Mae through a partner website may be subjected to a lower maximum loan request amount. Miscellaneous personal expenses (such as a laptop) may be included in the cost of attendance for students enrolled at least half-time. Examples of typical costs for a $10,000 Smart Option Student Loan with the most common fixed rate, fixed repayment option, 6-month separation period, and two disbursements: For a borrower with no prior loans and a 4-year in-school period, it works out to a 10.28% fixed APR, 51 payments of $25.00, 119 payments of $182.67 and one payment of $121.71, for a Total Loan Cost of $23,134.44. For a borrower with $20,000 in prior loans and a 2-year in-school period, it works out to a 10.78% fixed APR, 27 payments of $25.00, 179 payments of $132.53 and one payment of $40.35 for a total loan cost of $24,438.22. Loans that are subject to a $50 minimum principal and interest payment amount may receive a loan term that is less than 10 years.
College Ave Dental Student Loan
COMPARE RATES
on Credible’s website
on Credible’s website
College Ave Dental Student Loan

College Ave Dental Student Loan

Min. credit score

Mid-600s

Fixed APR

4.07-14.47%

Variable APR

5.59-14.47%

Key factsBest for dental students who'll need extra time before starting repayment.
Pros
  • You can see if you’ll qualify and what rate you’ll get without a hard credit check.
  • Twelve-month grace period is longer than other lenders offer.
  • You can defer payments up to an additional 12 months during residency after your grace period.
Cons
  • You must be at least halfway through your repayment term before you can request a co-signer release.
Qualifications
  • Typical credit score of approved borrowers: Mid-700s.
  • Minimum income: $35,000 per year.
  • Loan amounts: $1,000 up to the total cost of attendance.
Available Term Lengths5, 8, 10, 15 or 20 years
DisclaimerCollege Ave Student Loans products are made available through Firstrust Bank, member FDIC, First Citizens Community Bank, member FDIC, or M.Y. Safra Bank, FSB, member FDIC.. All loans are subject to individual approval and adherence to underwriting guidelines. Program restrictions, other terms, and conditions apply. As certified by your school and less any other financial aid you might receive. Minimum $1,000. Rates shown are for the College Ave Undergraduate Loan product and include autopay discount. The 0.25% auto-pay interest rate reduction applies as long as a valid bank account is designated for required monthly payments. If a payment is returned, you will lose this benefit. Variable rates may increase after consummation. This informational repayment example uses typical loan terms for a freshman borrower who selects the Flat Repayment Option with an 8-year repayment term, has a $10,000 loan that is disbursed in one disbursement and a 7.78% fixed Annual Percentage Rate (“APR”): 54 monthly payments of $25 while in school, followed by 96 monthly payments of $176.21 while in the repayment period, for a total amount of payments of $18,266.38. Loans will never have a full principal and interest monthly payment of less than $50. Your actual rates and repayment terms may vary. This informational repayment example uses typical loan terms for a freshman borrower who selects the Deferred Repayment Option with a 10-year repayment term, has a $10,000 loan that is disbursed in one disbursement and a 8.35% fixed Annual Percentage Rate (“APR”): 120 monthly payments of $179.18 while in the repayment period, for a total amount of payments of $21,501.54. Loans will never have a full principal and interest monthly payment of less than $50. Your actual rates and repayment terms may vary. Information advertised valid as of 3/7/2024. Variable interest rates may increase after consummation. Approved interest rate will depend on the creditworthiness of the applicant(s), lowest advertised rates only available to the most creditworthy applicants and require selection of full principal and interest payments with the shortest available loan term.

Our pick for

International dental students

International students aren’t eligible for federal student loans and will have few private options without access to an eligible co-signer.

MPOWER Private Student Loan

MPOWER Private Student Loan

Min. credit score

None

Fixed APR

13.74-15.01%

Variable APR

N/A

Key facts

You can only take out up to $50,000 a year ($25,000 each semester) from MPOWER, which may not be enough by itself to pay for dental school.

Pros
  • Offers a hard-to-find option: non-co-signed student loans for international and DACA students.
  • Borrowers are assigned a dedicated student loan advisor.
  • Borrowers can request forbearance of up to 24 months, which is longer than many lenders offer.
Cons
  • Payment required while in school and during the grace period.
  • Offers only one repayment term: 10 years.
Qualifications
  • MPOWER considers future income potential but does not factor in credit scores.
  • Loan amounts: Minimum $2,001. Maximum loan is $100,000, limited to $50,000 per academic period.
Available Term Lengths10 years
DisclaimerNote: Our loan does not support Canadian citizens studying in Canada. Canadian Permanent Residents and U.S. citizens are considered “international” when studying in Canada. International students, U.S. citizens, U.S. permanent residents, and DACA recipients in the U.S. or Canada. ‘International’ means you are a non-U.S. citizen or U.S. non-permanent resident studying at a university in the U.S., or you are a non-Canadian citizen or Canadian non-permanent resident studying at a university in Canada. ‘DACA’ means the Deferred Action For Childhood Arrivals Program initiated by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security in 2012. In order to qualify as a DACA Student, you must have applied for, and been granted, DACA status by USCIS. As a graduate student, you can borrow with a fixed interest rate of 12.99% (13.98% APR¹). This is the maximum rate and will not increase. However, MPOWER offers borrowers a way to qualify for a discount; a 0.25% rate discount is possible by making your loan payments through automatic withdrawal from your bank account. If you qualify for this discount, your rate will be 12.74% (13.72% APR²). ¹[International graduate student with regular interest rate] The APR is calculated using the following assumptions: A loan is approved in the amount of US$10,000 with a 5% origination fee of US$500. The student will start making payments 45 days after loan disbursement. Payments will be interest only until graduation, plus an additional 6-month grace period. The remaining months of repayment are calculated using a 120-month amortization schedule. All payments are made on-time, a forbearance is never utilized, and there is no pre-payment of any principal. At an APR of 13.98%, the monthly payment amount is US$113.66 for the first 30 months. For the next 120 months, the monthly payment amount is about $156.71. ²[International graduate student with discounted interest rate] The APRs with discounts are calculated using the following assumptions: A loan is approved in the amount of $10,000 with a 5% origination fee of US$500. The student will start making payments 45 days after loan disbursement. The borrower signs up for automatic debit immediately after the loan is disbursed and remains on it for the life of the loan, which reduces the rate by 0.25%. At an APR of 13.72%, the monthly payment is US$111.47 for the first 30 months. For the last 120 payments, the monthly amount is US$155.17. Undergraduate Students in the U.S. or Canada As an undergraduate student, you can borrow with a fixed interest rate of 13.99% (15.01% APR³). This is the maximum rate and will never increase. However, MPOWER offers borrowers a way to qualify for a discount; a 0.25% rate discount is possible by making your loan payments through automatic withdrawal from your bank account. If you qualify for this discount, your rate will be 13.74% (14.75% APR⁴). ³[International undergraduate student with regular interest rate] The APR is calculated using the following assumptions: A loan is approved in the amount of $10,000 with a 5% origination fee of $500. The student will start making payments 45 days after loan disbursement. Payments will be interest only until graduation plus an additional 6-month grace period. The remaining months of repayment are calculated using a 120-month amortization schedule. All payments are made on-time, a forbearance is never utilized, and there is no pre-payment of any principal. At an APR of 15.01%, the monthly payment amount is $122.41 for the first 30 months. For the next 120 months, the monthly payment amount is $162.97. ⁴[International undergraduate student with discounted interest rate] The APRs with discounts are calculated using the following assumptions: A loan is approved in the amount of US$10,000 with a 5% origination fee of US$500. The student will start making payments 45 days after loan disbursement. The borrower signs up for automatic debit immediately after the loan is disbursed and remains on it for the life of the loan, which reduces the rate by 0.25%. A forbearance is never utilized and there is no prepayment of any principal. At an APR of 14.75%, the monthly payment is US$120.22 for the first 30 payments. For the last 120 payments, the monthly amount is US$161.39.

Our pick for

Part-time dental students

If you’re studying part-time to be a dental hygienist or dental assistant, for example, you may not qualify for federal student loans or some private loans.

A.M. Money Private Student Loan

A.M. Money Private Student Loan

Min. credit score

None

Fixed APR

7.53-8.85%

Variable APR

N/A

Key factsBest for students who don’t have a co-signer, have a strong GPA and attend one of the schools A.M. money works with.
Pros
  • GPA is used to determine eligibility instead of credit or a co-signer.
  • Offers a hard-to-find, temporary income-based repayment option for up to 36 months.
  • All borrowers get the same fixed rate, benchmarked to the federal PLUS loan rates.
Cons
  • Works with a limited list of schools.
  • Charges an origination fee.
  • Does not allow for bi-weekly payments via autopay.
Qualifications
  • Typical credit score of approved borrowers: Credit and a co-signer are not required. Approval is based on GPA.
  • Minimum income: No minimum. Approval is based on GPA.
  • Loan amounts: $2,001 up to the full cost of attendance, maximum $50,000
Available Term Lengths10 years

Our pick for

Dental students from Texas

Brazos Private Student Loan

Brazos Private Student Loan

Min. credit score

680

Fixed APR

2.77-6.96%

Variable APR

5.00-9.44%

Key factsBest for Texas residents and students of Texan colleges with strong financials or a qualified co-signer.
Pros
  • May offer lower rates for graduate students than what are available through the federal government.
  • Applies extra payments to the loan principal by default.
  • Offers five loan terms, which is more than most lenders.
Cons
  • Not available to borrowers enrolled in two year programs at community colleges.
  • Biweekly payments via autopay is not available.
Available Term Lengths5, 7, 10, 15 or 20 years

Choosing student loans for dental school

Dental school loans are often unavoidable: More than 80% of dentists in the class of 2020 graduated with student debt, according to the American Dental Education Association. Their average dental school debt was more than $304,824.

If you might face that level of debt, federal student loans should be your first choice.

Federal student loans offer income-driven repayment plans that typically limit payments to 10% of your discretionary income. That can provide some financial breathing room, especially if you need money to start your own dental practice or purchase an existing one.

Federal student loans also offer Public Service Loan Forgiveness. But unless you pursue a career like academic research or teaching dentistry, PSLF may be less of an incentive than it is for other health professionals who are more likely to work for a nonprofit like a hospital.

There are other dental school debt forgiveness programs. Many of these eliminate federal and private student loans. You typically need to practice in a rural or underserved area to qualify.

Federal student loans for dental school

You may have access to multiple federal student loans for dental school. Consider them in the following order:

  • Health Professions Student Loan. Students with financial need can apply for these health professions student loans at participating dental schools. Funding may be limited. These loans have fixed interest rates of 5% and interest is subsidized while you’re in school.

  • Loans for Disadvantaged Students. LDS and HPSL have similar terms, and both come from the Health Resources and Services Administration. Because LDS and HPSL aren’t Department of Education loans, they aren’t eligible for programs like PSLF or income-driven repayment. But you can consolidate them to qualify.

  • Unsubsidized federal direct loans. Graduate students are eligible for up to $20,500 annually in federal unsubsidized loans.

  • Graduate PLUS loans. After exhausting the previous options, you can borrow what remains up to your cost of attendance in graduate PLUS loans. PLUS loans have the highest interest rates and charge the most in fees among federal student loans.

If you’re in an undergraduate dental program — to be a dental hygienist or dental assistant, for example — you may also be eligible for subsidized loans. You’ll need to demonstrate financial need to qualify for these loans, and loan limits are different for undergraduates.

Private loans for dental school

Many private lenders offer student loans for dental school. These loans are credit-based, so you could beat a federal loan’s interest rate if you or a co-signer has good credit.

Some lenders market loans specifically for graduate-level dental students. These may have features tailored to dental students. For example, multiple lenders let you postpone payments during a residency.

Such perks can sound nice, but keep an eye on how much you’ll owe each month. A potential six-figure dentist salary may make you confident in affording those bills. But if you aren’t able to, you won’t be able to fall back on income-driven payments like you can with federal loans.

And if you stick with federal loans and your earnings do align with those expectations? You can consider refinancing dental school loans with a private lender at a lower interest rate to recoup some savings.

How to get loans for dental school

How you get loans for dental school will depend on the type you wish to take out:

  • Health professions student loans. Contact your dental school’s financial aid office to see if it participates in this program, and ask about its application process.

  • Federal student loans. Complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, or FAFSA, to qualify for subsidized and unsubsidized direct loans, as well as graduate PLUS loans.

  • Private student loans. You can borrow from any private lender that offers graduate student loans. Get the best deal possible by shopping around; then apply directly with the lender.

STUDENT LOAN RATINGS METHODOLOGY

Our survey of more than 29 banks, credit unions and online lenders offering student loans and student loan refinancing includes the top 10 lenders by market share and top 10 lenders by online search volume, as well as lenders that serve specialty or nontraditional markets.

We consider 40 features and data points for each financial institution. Depending on the category, these include the availability of biweekly payments through autopay, minimum credit score and income requirement disclosures, availability to borrowers in all states, extended grace periods and in-house customer service.

The stars represent ratings from poor (one star) to excellent (five stars). Ratings are rounded to the nearest half-star.

Last updated on July 10, 2023

To recap our selections...

NerdWallet's Best Dental School Loans of May 2024

  • Federal Subsidized/Unsubsidized Loan: Best for Most borrowers as a first option
  • Federal Grad PLUS Loan: Best for Manageable payments post-graduation
  • Sallie Mae Undergraduate Student Loan: Best for Dental students with excellent credit
  • College Ave Dental Student Loan: Best for Dental students with excellent credit
  • MPOWER Private Student Loan: Best for International dental students
  • A.M. Money Private Student Loan: Best for Part-time dental students
  • Brazos Private Student Loan: Best for Dental students from Texas

Frequently asked questions

  • Dentists in the class of 2020 graduated with an average student loan debt of more than $304,824, according to the American Dental Education Association.

  • Getting federal student loans for dental school will typically require completing the FAFSA. Private dental school loans would require applying directly with a lender.

  • Because dental students average six figures of debt, they should usually opt first for federal student loans to have the option of enrolling in an income-driven repayment plan.

  • Multiple lenders have private loans just for dental students, including College Ave and Sallie Mae. But you can take out any graduate-level loan. Compare multiple offers to get the best deal.

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