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8 Strategies to Pay Off Dental School Debt

Kathryn Morstad
how to pay off dental school debt
how to pay off dental school debt

Before You Read, Lower Your Student Loan Payment

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Before You Read, Lower Your Student Payment

It’s that quick & easy — really. Our free tool checks a network of top refinance lenders and shows you options in one easy chart.

Checking rates takes 2 minutes with no impact on your credit
Federal & private loans are eligible
No maximum loan amount

If you’re a dentist and graduated with 6-figure student loan debt, you are not alone in wondering how to pay off dental school debt. While only 17% of graduates from dental school graduated with no reported debt, the majority of dentists today are carrying a substantial student loan burden.

According to the American Dental Education Association (ADEA), those who graduated from public universities have an average of $261,226 in student loan debt, while those who attended private schools are carrying an even higher average of $354,900.

The good news is that dentists are excellent candidates for student loan refinancing and other forms of alternative payoffs due to their high income, according to the ADEA.

The not-so-good news is many dentists are carrying loans with interest rates as high as 10.5%. In addition to high loan fees, many in the dental industry are experiencing reduced income as insurance plans are negotiating lower and lower reimbursement rates for dental procedures. This reduced income eats directly into their ability to pay off student loans.

8 Strategies for Paying Off Dental School Student loans

Let’s look at eight strategies that can help you pay off dental school loans so you can focus on other financial goals, like saving for retirement, buying a new home, or saving for your child’s college.

Don’t Count on Federal Student Loan Forgiveness

First, a quick word about student loan forgiveness — you have probably been hearing about the possibility of the federal government agreeing to forgive student loans. When weighing that option, be sure to research what that means for people with advanced degrees or talk with a financial professional.

So far, it appears that any forgiveness will be focused on people with lower incomes or those who are financially disadvantaged in some way and have federal student loans. Private student loans do not qualify for forgiveness.

So, let’s look at how you can pay off those student loans.

1.   Pay More Than the Minimum

Paying more than the minimum amount due each month is a strategy that’s a win-win-win!

  • Win #1 — You are able to eliminate your debt faster.
  • Win #2 — Save money on interest charges over the life of the loan.
  • Win #3 — You can maintain or improve your credit score by reducing your outstanding debt.

You can do this successfully by adding an additional amount on each monthly payment. Or, if you’re paid bi-weekly, schedule half of each month’s payment from every paycheck. At the end of the year, you’ll have a full payment to dedicate towards principal only.

Just be sure your loan servicer doesn’t have pre-payment penalties before paying more than your minimum payment.

2.   Use All Additional Windfalls to Make a Difference

If you receive additional money through the year, pay the extra cash directly towards your student loans. Windfalls can include:

  • Sign-on or year-end bonuses
  • Tax refunds
  • Lump sum payments or proceeds from the sale of property
  • Inheritances or winnings

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1.   Earn Additional Income Working as a Locum Tenens

Often when people look at how to pay off dental school debt, they will look at taking on additional work.

Without a doubt, Locum Tenens (or temporary, fill-in) work can pay extremely well. Temporary part-time and full-time positions are available to cover vacations, unfilled hours, or staff shortages. And that income can be used to pay down student loans.

It can also be a great way to travel and experience different communities before settling in a single spot.

2.   Consider State Loan Forgiveness Programs

Beyond scholarship programs, most states have loan forgiveness or repayment programs that are awarded to dentists and other healthcare professionals. Options include practicing in underserved locations, such as designated Health Professional Shortage Areas (HPSAs), or working with at-risk populations.

Each state’s programs are administered by their state authority, so it may require some investigation to secure the right option. These programs can cover both federal and private student loans and can commonly include annual lump sum payments in the range of $20,000 to $35,000.

The only caveat to student loan forgiveness: in many situations, the loan amount that’s forgiven is subject to taxation as regular income. Be sure to check with your financial advisor before agreeing to participate.

3.   Apply for the Federal PSLF Program

As someone with a dental degree, you are eligible to apply for the federal Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program (PSLF). It’s available to healthcare professionals with federal student loans who work full-time in a qualifying practice or clinic.

With PSLF participation, you make 120 consecutive payments (10 years) and then you’re eligible for loan forgiveness on the remaining balance. The balance is not subject to income tax.

4.   Income-Driven Repayment Plans

The federal Income-Driven Repayment Plans (IDR) may be a long shot for dentists since participation is based on financial need. But if you feel your monthly payments are too high, then IDR may be worth exploring.

There are four plans available, including:

·         Income-Based Repayment (IBR)

·         Income-Contingent Repayment (ICR)

·         Pay As You Earn (PAYE)

·         Revised Pay As You Earn (RePAYE)

These plans structure your loan repayment term to 20 or 25 years, and the payment is based on a percentage of your discretionary income.

5.   Direct Consolidation

The federal Direct Consolidation program allows you to bundle all your federal loans into a single loan package and extend the repayment term up to 30 years.

With this option, you aren’t getting a lower interest rate since the new loan will have an average interest rate based on all of the loans consolidated. However, some borrowers choose this option to simplify their payments and extend their loan term for a lower monthly payment.

6.   Refinance Your Student Loans

There are still great interest rates available when refinancing student loans. Rising interest rates and inflation are all over the news, but many private refinance lenders still offer rates that allow you to save money.

For example, if the average interest rate on your combined student loans is 10.5% on a total of $250,000 to be paid over 10 years, your monthly payment is about $3,373, plus you will be paying over $154K in interest.

If you refinance that same amount to a fixed rate of 4.1%, your monthly payment will change to $2,543 and you will pay only $55K in total interest. By continuing to pay the original amount (about $800 more each month), you would pay your loan off almost 3 years faster. 

See How Much You Can Save

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Want to lower your rate to help pay off student loans faster? Check your rate at our top-rated lenders in 2 minutes, with no impact on credit.

When Refinancing, How Do You Find the Best Lender?

If you are considering refinancing to pay off dental school debt, it’s important to evaluate different lenders to compare their interest rates, terms, and special offers or programs. Fortunately, you can do that by visiting a marketplace site like Purefy to compare offers from top-tier lenders.

When using a student loan refinancing marketplace, you have the opportunity to get pre-approved offers from a variety of lenders in minutes. You can check rates with no affect on your credit score and no obligation to proceed until you are ready.

Getting a Quote

To get student loan refinancing offers, you’ll enter some personal information, such as:

  • Your name, address, contact information, and Social Security number
  • Your income (be sure to include paychecks or practice income you pay yourself),
  • School attended and highest degree earned (DDS vs. DMD)
  • Your total loan amount
  • Whether you are a U.S. citizen or permanent resident

After submitting the form, you’ll receive a comparison of interest rates and terms from up to four different lenders. The rate comparison tool will allow you to sort the list to determine the best option for paying off dental school debt.

Applying for a Refinanced Loan

Once you have selected the best lender for your circumstances, you can apply and submit the required documents (like paystubs, tax returns, and payoff statements for your current loans).

There are no application or origination fees and no pre-payment penalties with any of Purefy’s lenders. Once you’re approved, your new lender will pay off your existing loans and create one new loan at the rate and term you choose.

To Summarize

There are a variety of ways to pay off student loans, such as making additional payments or by trading services for loan forgiveness (as with PSLF).

One thing is for certain: it’s a good idea to compare your current interest rates with what’s available — you could save money and pay off your loans sooner.

Compare rates with Purefy today to see if you can start saving money on your dental school student loans.

Interested in Student Loan Refinancing? Compare rates from top-rated lenders and see how much you could save.

Checking your rates takes 2 minutes and has no impact on credit. 

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Ascent Rate Disclosure

Ascent’s undergraduate and graduate student loans are funded by Bank of Lake Mills or DR Bank, Member FDIC. Loan products may not be available in certain jurisdictions. Certain restrictions, limitations; and terms and conditions may apply. For Ascent Terms and Conditions please visit: www.AscentStudentLoans.com/Ts&Cs.

Rates are effective as of 12/1/2023 and reflect an automatic payment discount of either 0.25% (for credit-based loans) OR 1.00% (for undergraduate outcomes-based loans). Automatic Payment Discount is available if the borrower is enrolled in automatic payments from their personal checking account and the amount is successfully withdrawn from the authorized back account each month. For Ascent rates and repayment examples please visit: www.AscentStudentLoans.com/Rates.

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Fixed rates range from 4.49% APR to 8.99% APR with a 0.25% autopay discount. Variable rates from 5.09% APR to 8.99% APR with a 0.25% autopay discount. Unless required to be lower to comply with applicable law, Variable Interest rates on 5-, 7-, and 10-year terms are capped at 8.95% APR; 15- and 20-year terms are capped at 9.95% APR. Your actual rate will be within the range of rates listed above and will depend on the term you select, evaluation of your creditworthiness, income, presence of a co-signer and a variety of other factors. Lowest rates reserved for the most creditworthy borrowers. For the SoFi variable-rate product, the variable interest rate for a given month is derived by adding a margin to the 30-day average SOFR index, published two business days preceding such calendar month, rounded up to the nearest one hundredth of one percent (0.01% or 0.0001). APRs for variable-rate loans may increase after origination if the SOFR index increases. The SoFi 0.25% autopay interest rate reduction requires you to agree to make monthly principal and interest payments by an automatic monthly deduction from a savings or checking account. This benefit will discontinue and be lost for periods in which you do not pay by automatic deduction from a savings or checking account. The benefit lowers your interest rate but does not change the amount of your monthly payment. This benefit is suspended during periods of deferment and forbearance. Autopay is not required to receive a loan from SoFi.

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Actual rate and available repayment terms will vary based on your income. Fixed rates range from 5.44% APR to 9.99% APR (excludes 0.25% Auto Pay discount). Variable rates range from 5.97% APR to 9.99% APR (excludes 0.25% Auto Pay discount). Earnest variable interest rate student loan refinance loans are based on a publicly available index, the 30-day Average Secured Overnight Financing Rate (SOFR) published by the Federal Reserve Bank of New York. The variable rate is based on the rate published on the 25th day, or the next business day, of the preceding calendar month, rounded to the nearest hundredth of a percent. The rate will not increase more than once per month. The maximum rate for your loan is 8.95% if your loan term is 10 years or less. For loan terms of more than 10 years to 15 years, the interest rate will never exceed 9.95%. For loan terms over 15 years, the interest rate will never exceed 11.95%. Please note, we are not able to offer variable rate loans in AK, IL, MN, NH, OH, TN, and TX. Our lowest rates are only available for our most credit qualified borrowers and contain our .25% auto pay discount from a checking or savings account.

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Rates displayed include the 0.25% Auto Pay discount. You can take advantage of the Auto Pay interest rate reduction by setting up and maintaining active and automatic ACH withdrawal of your loan payment from a checking or savings account. The interest rate reduction for Auto Pay will be available only while your loan is enrolled in Auto Pay. Interest rate incentives for utilizing Auto Pay may not be combined with certain private student loan repayment programs that also offer an interest rate reduction. For multi-party loans, only one party may enroll in Auto Pay. It is important to note that the 0.25% Auto Pay discount is not available while loan payments are deferred.

Actual rate and available repayment terms will vary based on your income. Fixed rates range from 4.67% APR to 16.15% APR (excludes 0.25% Auto Pay discount). Variable rates range from 5.64% APR to 16.45% APR (excludes 0.25% Auto Pay discount). Earnest variable interest rate student loan origination loans are based on a publicly available index, the 30-day Average Secured Overnight Financing Rate (SOFR) published by the Federal Reserve Bank of New York. The variable rate is based on the rate published on the 25th day, or the next business day, of the preceding calendar month, rounded to the nearest hundredth of a percent. The rate will not increase more than once per month. Although the rate will vary after you are approved, it will never exceed 36% (the maximum allowable for this loan). Please note, Earnest Private Student Loans are not available in Nevada. Our lowest rates are only available for our most credit qualified borrowers and contain our .25% auto pay discount from a checking or savings account. It is important to note that the 0.25% Auto Pay discount is not available while loan payments are deferred.

Nine-month grace period is not available for borrowers who choose our Principal and Interest Repayment plan while in school.

Earnest clients may skip one payment every 12 months. Your first request to skip a payment can be made once you’ve made at least 6 months of consecutive on-time payments, and your loan is in good standing. The interest accrued during the skipped month will result in an increase in your remaining minimum payment. The final payoff date on your loan will be extended by the length of the skipped payment periods. Please be aware that a skipped payment does count toward the forbearance limits. Please note that skipping a payment is not guaranteed and is at Earnest’s discretion. Your monthly payment and total loan cost may increase as a result of postponing your payment and extending your term.

Loan Eligibility criteria: Eligible students must: 1) For college Freshmen, Sophomores and Juniors, attend, or be enrolled to attend, a Title IV school full-time. For college Seniors and Graduate students, attend, or be enrolled to attend, a Title IV school at least half-time; and 2) be pursuing a Bachelor’s or Graduate degree. Earnest private student loans are subject to credit qualification, completion of a loan application, verification of application information, self-certification of loan amount, and school certification.

Responsible borrowing tip: Explore all scholarship, grant and federal options before applying for a private loan.

Earnest Private Student Loans are made by One American Bank, Member FDIC. One American Bank, 515 S. Minnesota Ave, Sioux Falls, SD 57104.

Earnest loans are serviced by Earnest Operations LLC, 535 Mission St., Suite 1663 San Francisco, CA 94105, NMLS #1204917, with support From Navient Solutions, LLC (NMLS #212430). One American Bank and Earnest LLC and its subsidiaries, including Earnest Operations LLC, are not sponsored by agencies of the United States of America.

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Education Loan Finance is a nationwide student loan debt consolidation and refinance program offered by Tennessee based SouthEast Bank. ELFI is designed to assist borrowers through consolidating and refinancing loans into one single loan that effectively lowers your cost of education debt and/or makes repayment very simple. Subject to credit approval. See Terms & Conditions. Interest rates current as of 10/13/2023. The interest rate and monthly payment for a variable rate loan may increase after closing, but will never exceed 9.95% APR. Interest rates may be different from the rates shown above and will be based on the term of your loan, your financial history, and other factors, including your cosigner’s (if any) financial history. For example, a 10-year loan with a fixed rate of 6% would have 120 payments of $11.00 per $1,000 borrowed. Rates are subject to change.

ELFI Rate Disclosure

Education Loan Finance is a nationwide student loan provider offered by Tennessee based SouthEast Bank. ELFI is designed to assist students financially with receiving their education. Subject to credit approval. See Terms & Conditions. Interest rates current as of 12/11/2023. Variable interest rates may increase after closing but will never exceed 18.00%. Interest rates may also differ from the rates shown above. The term of your loan, financial history, and other factors, including your cosigner’s (if any) financial history can affect the interest rate. For example, a 10-year loan with a fixed rate of 7% would have 120 payments of $11.61 per $1,000 borrowed. Rates are subject to change.

College Ave Rate Disclosure

College 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.
Rates shown 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.
Minimum loan amount $1,000, as certified by your school and less any other financial aid you might receive.
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 1/1/2024. 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.

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