The Cost of Dental School and How to Pay For It
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To become a dentist, you’ll typically need to complete four years of undergraduate studies, then another four years of dental school. And unfortunately, this doesn’t come cheap.
While Bureau of Labor Statistics data puts the median annual salary for dentists at $164,010, they also leave school with an average of $304,824 in student loan debt, according to the American Dental Education Association (ADEA). Also keep in mind that as a new dental school graduate, you’ll likely earn much less than the average to start.
If you’re wondering what the cost of dental school is and whether it’s worth it, here’s what you should know:
Average cost of dental school over four years
How much you’ll pay for a dental program can vary depending on whether you’re a resident or nonresident student as well as on other expenses — such as your living costs.
Here are the average costs you can expect for four years of dental school, according to the American Dental Association (ADA):
- Residents: $259,990
- Nonresidents: $325,891
How to pay for dental school
If you’re ready to figure out how to cover your dental school costs, follow these five steps:
1. Fill out the FAFSA
If you need to pay for school, your first step should be completing the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). Your school will use your FAFSA results to determine what federal student loans and other federal financial aid you’re eligible for.
Keep in mind that some aid is given on a first-come, first-served basis — so it’s wise to submit the FAFSA as early as possible, especially if you have high financial need.
2. Apply for scholarships and grants
Unlike student loans, college scholarships and grants don’t have to be repaid — which makes them a great way to pay for dental school. There’s no limit to how many scholarships and grants you can get, so it’s a good idea to apply for as many as you can.
- ADEA/MouthWatch Predoctoral Dental Student Scholarship for Innovation: Sponsored by the ADEA and MouthWatch, this $1,000 award is available to full-time students who have completed at least one year of dental school.
- Dental Trade Alliance Foundation Scholarship: This award is available to full-time dental students with financial need who are nominated by the dean of their dental school or the dean’s designate. Award amounts range from $5,000 up to $25,000, depending on your nomination ranking and the donations received by the Dental Trade Alliance Foundation.
You might also qualify for school-based scholarships depending on your FAFSA results. Additionally, you can use sites like Fastweb and Scholarships.com to easily search for awards that you might be eligible for.
3. Take out federal student loans
If you need to borrow money to pay for dental school, it’s usually best to rely on federal student loans first. This is mainly because these loans come with major federal benefits and protections — such as access to income-driven repayment plans and student loan forgiveness programs.
Here are the two main types of federal student loans that dental students could be eligible for:
- Direct Unsubsidized Loans are available to undergraduate, graduate, and professional students regardless of financial need. Unlike with undergraduate subsidized loans, you’re responsible for all the interest that accrues on unsubsidized loans.
- Grad PLUS Loans are a category of Direct PLUS Loan available to students who want to pay for grad school or professional programs — such as dental school. PLUS Loans generally have higher interest rates compared to unsubsidized loans. They also require a credit check.
With PLUS Loans, on the other hand, you might be able to borrow up to your school’s cost of attendance minus any other financial aid you’ve received.
4. Consider HRSA programs
The Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) provides loans to schools, which are then passed on to students with financial need. Loans that might be available to dental school students include:
- Health Professions Student Loans
- Loans for Disadvantaged Students
5. Shop around for private student loans
After you’ve exhausted your scholarship and grant options and applied for any federal and HRSA loans that you’re eligible for, private student loans could help fill any financial gaps left over. These loans are offered by private lenders, such as online lenders as well as traditional banks and credit unions.
Note that private student loans don’t come with federal protections. However, they do offer some benefits of their own — for example, you can apply at any time and might be able to borrow more than you’d get with a Direct Unsubsidized Loan.
If you’re struggling to get approved, consider applying with a creditworthy cosigner. Even if you don’t need a cosigner to qualify, having one could get you a lower interest rate than you’d get on your own. Just keep in mind that if you can’t make your payments, your cosigner will be on the hook.
8 best dental school student loans
Many private lenders offer student loans for dental school. Some even provide specialized loans that are designed specifically for dental students as well as loans that can be used to cover the cost of dental residency or relocation.
If you decide to take out a private student loan to pay for dental school, it’s important to shop around and consider as many lenders as possible so you can find the right loan for you. Credible makes this easy — you can compare your prequalified rates from our partner lenders below that offer private student loans for dental school in just two minutes.
|Lender||Fixed Rates From (APR)||Variable Rates From (APR)||Loan amounts||Loan terms (years)||Offers specific dental school loan?|
|3.36%+||1.46%+||$2,001 to $200,000||7 to 20||Yes|
|3.23%+1||N/A||$1,000 to $350,000 (depending on degree)||5, 10, 15||Yes|
||0.94%+2,3||$1,000 up to 100% of the school-certified cost of attendance||5, 8, 10, 15||Yes|
|3.2%+||1.03%+||$1,000 to $99,999 annually
($180,000 aggregate limit)
|7, 10, 15||No|
|3.02%+7||2.37%+7||$1,000 to $200,000||7, 10, 15||No|
|3.33%+8||1.69%+8||$1,001 up to 100% of school certified cost of attendance||5, 10, 15||No|
|3.75%+||N/A||$1,500 up to school’s certified cost of attendance less aid||15||No|
|3.5% – 12.6% APR9||1.13% – 11.23% APR9||Up to 100% of the school-certified cost of attendance||15||Yes|
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