Nearly 80% of dental school students in the class of 2018 took on dental school debt, according to a survey by the American Dental Education Association.
Among class of 2018 dental school graduates with any type of student debt — including from undergraduate studies — the average student loan balance was $285,184.
With a $285,000 student loan balance, you’d owe more than $3,300 per month on a 10-year repayment plan, assuming a 7% interest rate.
Average dental school debt
Dental school graduates are some of the most indebted professionals, on average. Here’s how the average dental school debt compares with other fields for the class of 2017, the most recent year all of the data are available:
- Average dental school debt: $287,331.
- Average medical school debt: $190,694.
- Average bachelor’s degree debt: $28,650.
Sources: Association of American Medical Colleges, The Institute for College Access and Success.
How to tackle dental school debt
Paying thousands of dollars per month on student loans can be a squeeze even with a dentist’s income. These strategies can make monthly payments more manageable.
- If you can’t afford 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 student loan forgiveness for health care professionals 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 debt 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.