Dental Career

How to Pay Off Dental School Debt

Dental Career

How to Pay Off Dental School Debt

A dentist sits at her desk, stressed about how to pay off dental school debt.

A dental degree is among the most expensive degrees you can pursue in the United States. In general, your dental degree is likely more expensive than a medical degree by a significant margin. Dental graduates enter the workforce with an average of about $300,000 in student loan debt. However, many carry somewhere in the realm of $500,000. You may be asking yourself how you’re going to pay off your dental school debt.

The good news is that, in general, your career will be lucrative enough to make repaying those loans feasible in time. There are also many ways to ease that burden and take some of that weight off your shoulders.

A dentist works with a child in an underserved area. Working with underserved communities can be a great way to pay off dental school debt.

Work In an Underserved Area

One of the primary factors in paying back your loans will be your income. For most industries, that means gravitating toward densely populated urban areas where there are more jobs and higher pay. However, dentistry can frequently be the exact opposite.

In many cases, competition in those bustling cities creates a cap on how much an incoming dentist can make. The neighborhoods are usually oversaturated with established practices. That means there are not as many potential patients seeking dental care. Additionally, cities are incredibly expensive places to live. With lower potential income and higher cost of living, city dentists often find themselves with less of a financial cushion, making loan repayment more stressful. Of course, there are always exceptions to the rule, but branching out from the city may reap huge rewards.

Rural and suburban areas may offer the opportunity for much higher income because there are more patients without easy access to healthcare providers like dentists. Patients in these areas need dentists, and that means a much more generous community to draw from when you’re just starting out. Many states also offer perks for dentists willing to relocate to rural and underserved areas.

Community Dental Partners has practices in many rural and underserved areas in Texas for just this reason. These patients need care, and we are proud to serve them. Choice of practice location is also how we help reduce the shortage of patients for our incoming doctors and start their careers in the fast lane. It’s also why we can offer highly competitive salaries in areas with a low cost of living. That means more disposable income available for you to get out from under those loans fast!

Income-Driven Repayment Plans

Federal student loan holders may be eligible to apply for a repayment rate based on their income. In some cases, this can help ensure you’re making manageable monthly payments that don’t deduct too much from the money you need to cover your living expenses. The federal government offers four plans for this type of repayment. All four programs work by determining an “affordable” repayment figure based on your income. It also involve terms for forgiveness of the remaining amount after a set period (usually 25 years or so).

However, you may make too much as a dentist to qualify for these programs. If you do qualify, be very cautious before you sign the paperwork as their interest rates may be very high. You may benefit more from seeking lower-interest options for repayment such as refinancing.

Loan Forgiveness Programs

If you’re willing to work for a state or federal public service like the Health Department, or start your career at a nonprofit, the Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program may be worth looking into. Under this program, you will commit to making consecutive monthly payments to the program for 10 years, during which time you must maintain a full-time work schedule. Once your ten years are completed, the remaining amount of your loan will be forgiven.

However, this program only applies to federal loans and won’t help toward repaying any private loans you took on during your studies. If you aren’t in love with the public health service environment, you may find yourself feeling trapped with the ten-year commitment to this program, so be sure it’s the right fit for you before moving forward.

A dentist stands with a leader at her company, happy to have learned about her options to pay off her dental school debt.

Consider Refinancing and Consolidating

Refinancing a loan means allowing a private institution to pay off dental school debt in one lump sum in exchange for a new loan under their purview. Most of the time, people refinance to take advantage of lower interest rates than their original loan terms. With loan amounts in the hundreds of thousands, you could stand to significantly reduce what you spend paying your loan.

Alternatively, you can also take advantage of refinancing to extend the time to repay your loan. This would allow you to pay less per month. This can help give you some comforting wiggle room in covering your monthly expenses. However, paying less per month usually means paying more interest in total over the life of your loan, so you may not end up saving money in the long run.

Consolidation is another option for making your monthly payments more manageable. If you had to take out multiple loans to pay for your education, rolling them into one streamlines your payments. For students carrying multiple loans, each of those lenders will expect a set repayment each month, and many times those payments add up to an unmanageable situation.

By consolidating those multiple loans, the lender will work with you to create a manageable, single payment rate per month. The drawback here is that your interest rates will likely be higher than they were with the original loans. You will also be paying off the loan for a longer amount of time.

Find an Employer with a Loan Repayment Program

Graphic showcasing CDP's loan repayment program. By working at certain underserved locations, dentists can earn up to $21,000 a year to help pay off dental school debt.

Ideally, you’ll find yourself with job offers from several potential employers. As you compare those offers, keep an eye out for compensation packages that include student loan repayment. Employers offering help with paying back your student loans understand that your loan payment will reduce your income every month. Lessening that burden can help free you to focus on your patients, on expanding your skills, and on adapting to your new life as a dentist.

That’s why CDP partners with a top-tier finance company to offer incoming dentists loan repayment assistance. We believe in investing in your career and supporting you in all aspects of your life as a dentist. In addition to a generous salary and benefits package, perks and student loan repayment options set us apart from other practices you may consider.

As with anything, be sure you fully understand the terms of any student loan repayment offers before you commit. Download our Lifestyle & Compensation Guide today to find out more about how we can help you pay off dental school debt and start your career on the right foot.

Dr. Craig Copeland
Dr. Craig Copeland Chief Dental Officer Community Dental Partners

A graduate of Brigham Young University’s Business Finance department and the University of Florida’s College of Dentistry, Dr. Craig Copeland, DMD first joined Community Dental Partners (CDP) in 2010, after co-founder Dr. Chad Evans invited him to an interview.

He instantly fell in love with CDP’s mission to elevate dentistry, make great dental care accessible, and provide unique and amazing experiences for underserved communities. The organization’s culture aligned with his own beliefs and he knew that CDP would offer him the ideal environment in which to grow.

Today, Dr. Copeland is the Chief Dental Officer of Community Dental Partners and focuses on helping CDP’s doctors exceed in their careers, through mentorship, training, and strengthening CDP’s support systems.

Dr. Copeland lives in Texas with his family: his wife and four children. He’s an avid sports fan, and supporting his children in their activities, such as basketball, gymnastics, and soccer, keeps him busy. He also likes to travel to new places with his family whenever he can.

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