There are many reasons to aspire to be a dentist: a flexible work-life balance, running your own practice, and of course, helping people to be healthier and happier.
But the path to becoming a dentist is expensive, and figuring out how to pay for dental school is something each aspiring dentist must do. In fact, the full cost of attending a private dental school for a four-year degree can be more than $400,000 for tuition along with room, board, medical instruments, and other items.
However, the return on investment may be well worth it. According to Earnest data, the median debt for a DDS or DMD degree is $220,000 and the median annual salary is $155,000.
While the first few years out of school may be financially tight, students loans don’t need to hold any aspiring dentist from doing things like opening a private dental practice.
And the future is bright for dentists. There is now a huge growth in the need for dentists around the country, possibly because of the fact that aging baby boomers are beginning to need more dental work.
Now that you’re considering dentistry as a future career, how will you pay for dental school?
How Much Does Dental School Cost?
First, think about whether you will be able to go to an in-state dental school or if you’ll be a non-resident student in another state. The cost of one year of dental school varies widely depending on these factors. Here are some data points about the first-year cost of attendance:
For an in-state student at the Indiana University the cost is $51,000 and for an out-of-state student, it’s more than $91,000. At the University of Kentucky, the full cost of attendance is $65,000 for a resident and more than $98,000 for a non-resident. At the private Herman Ostrow School of Dentistry at the University of Southern California, the cost of attendance is more than $102,000 for the first year of school.
Now, multiply these numbers by four to see the approximate cost to obtain your dental school degree.
How Many Years is Dental School?
Dental school takes four years to complete if you take classes full-time. You will need to have a bachelors degree to apply to dental school and some students may take some time to work before applying. There are some combined DDS and doctorate or master’s degree programs that might appeal to potential students looking to expand their career options further, however, these programs may require more time to complete.
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How to Pay for Dental School
Dental school financial aid
How will you pay for your dental school education?
Your first step is to visit the financial aid office of the dental school you’re planning to attend. You’ll be able to find out if the school of your choice offers scholarships or grants and how to apply for them.
Apply for Federal Financial Aid
Next, be sure to fill out the Free Application for Student Aid (FAFSA). When you have applied for aid and after your have been accepted into the school, you’ll often be automatically considered for grants offered by the school.
Federal loans for dental school
Federal loans are offered through the financial aid office of a dental school and the majority of dental school students take them out in order to fund their education.
Below you can find the types of federal loans that are available for graduate dental students. Typically, repayment on federal loans begins six months after you graduate. To find the exact interest rates for federal loans, visit the Department of Education.
Comparing federal loan types for dental school
|Type of loan||Rates and costs (through 7/1/16)||Maximum borrowing per year|
|Federal Stafford Loan||Fixed 5.84%, with a loan fee of more than 1%. Interest accrues with loan origination.||$20,500|
|Graduate PLUS Loan||Fixed 6.84%, with a loan fee of more than 4%. Interest accrues with loan origination.||Amount up to the school’s Cost of Attendance minus the amount of all other financial aid you are receiving (including other loans).|
|Health Professions Student Loan (HPSL)||Fixed 5% interest; no loan fees. Interest accrues with the start of the repayment period.||Varies according to eligibility and available funds.|
Private loans for dental school
Private loans may be used in addition to federal loans. These are not offered through the financial aid office of a school but through private companies.
In contrast to federal loans, rates will vary based on the financial profile of the borrower. Learn more about private student loans here.
Dental school scholarships, grants, and fellowships
Scholarships are typically based on merit and are offered by many schools; recipients are typically chosen according to admissions applications and DAT scores. Grants are based on financial need and do not require repayment, so they are another way to fund your dental education.
You will want to spend some time researching all your options, whether scholarships offered by the school or by outside organizations.
Some of the offerings available to dental students: The American Dental Education Association offers multiple scholarships up to $5,500. Eligibility requirements vary per scholarship, and you must be an ADEA Individual Member to receive many of these scholarships.
The Hispanic Dental Association (HDA) offers a variety of scholarships every year to students that range from $1,000 to $10,000.
Each year, the TYLENOL Future Care Scholarship awards 30 scholarships of $5,000 each and 10 scholarships of $10,000 each to students who are pursuing a degree in medicine. Awards are based on academic merit, community involvement, and other factors.
The US Army Health Professions Scholarship Program awards full tuition and a monthly stipend of more than $2,000 to students who qualify and are pursuing a career in healthcare or are currently enrolled in a graduate health care program. In addition, sign-on bonuses of $20,000 are given to dental students in some cases. In return, you must serve one-year active duty in the U.S. Army for every year you receive the scholarship.
The International Association for Dental Research (IADR) offers six fellowship programs to help encourage dental students to consider careers in oral health research.
These are just a few of aid offerings available for dental students and it’s worth investigating all options that can help you defray the costs of dental school.
Repaying Your Student Loans After Dental School
Finding ways to pay for dental school is the first step. Your next step is to manage your education debt while you’re settling into your new dental career.
There are many federal and state loan repayment programs and resources that are available to newly practicing dentists. However, these programs often include loan repayment assistance in exchange for work and service in certain states. If you’re sure you want to establish a private practice right away or don’t want to be locked into a service commitment, these programs may not be for you.
Another option is refinancing your loans into a lower rate. Once you’ve secured a position in the dental field, you’ll be in a more favorable position to consider refinancing your loans – an option that saves many dentists thousands of dollars in interest payments. Learn more about the pros and cons of refinancing your student loans.