Practical Tips For Paying Off Your Dental School Debt

by Dr. Gary Salwin

When you do a search online for the highest paid jobs in the healthcare industry, you’ll see that dentists almost always make it to the top five, even the top three.

Even lower-tier dental jobs pay nicely.

And if you’re one of the few emergency dentists in your area or an oral surgeon with a DDS (Doctor of Dental Surgery) or DMD (Doctor of Dental Medicine) degree, you’re bound to earn even more.

However, dental school is not cheap. Far from it.

Not everyone has parents who can pay for their entire dental school education or the opportunity for a scholarship or an educational grant. Most students pay their way through dental school with the help of school loans.

The thing is these dental school loans tend to weigh down on these students long after they’ve become dentists themselves.

According to the American Dental Education Association, the average dental school debt is $292,169.

If you’re a new dentist with that much school debt, it could take you some time to pay it all off, but it’s not impossible.

Many people avail of private refinancing or student loan forgiveness opportunities, which are good options every dentist burdened by a mountain of school debt should carefully consider.

Whether you take that route or not, you will need to find more ways to make dental school debt repayments less burdensome, even quicker. Here are some practical tips that can help you do just that.

Live Like You Never Left Dental School

If you were a dental student who had to take out several loans just to stay within the program, it’s probably safe to say that you lived a frugal life back then.

You stuck to your budget, planned your meals, and very rarely spent money on things you didn’t really need, like fancy clothing or gadgets.

Now that you’re a dentist and presumably earning well, the temptation to splurge on all the things you’ve missed as a penny-pinching dental student is real.

However, your financial obligation–your massive dental school debt–should get those thoughts out of your head.

Even if you’re getting paid handsomely today, it pays to retain the mindset you had as a dental school student.

Instead of dining at nice restaurants on a daily basis, cut it down to twice a month just to treat yourself for all your hard work. Better yet, cook at home and save lots of money.

You can also cut back on your spending for streaming services. You probably don’t have the time to watch them all anyway.

It will also help if you postpone that European vacation you’ve been dreaming about forever, at least until all your dental school loans are paid up.

By being conscious about your overall spending, you can save hundreds, even thousands of dollars, which can all be diverted to servicing your dental school debt.

Practice Dentistry Where There Is Less Competition

To say that the competition among dentists these days is fierce would be an understatement.

If you practice your profession in a place where there seems to be a dental practice on every block, the ceiling on your earning capacity will likely be lower than in areas that need more dentists.

The lower your potential income, the fewer resources you’re going to have to pay off your dental school debt within a reasonable amount of time.

There are many other locations that need more dentists, and it’s also likely that the living expenses in such places are lower. Consider moving there, where you stand a better chance of earning more, allowing you to pay off your dental school debt much more quickly than you anticipated.

Be A Dental Practice Owner

Many new dentists work as an associate in an established dental practice, probably earning as much as $120,000 a year or more.

One-hundred-twenty grand a year is nothing to sniff at. It’s good money and all, but if you’re supposed to make monthly school debt repayments of $4,000 or more for the next decade or so, you might want to earn more if you’re going to be free of that obligation sooner.

Owning a dental practice can give you a better chance of getting there faster. After all, a dental practice typically earns an average revenue of $1,193,934. Minus operating expenses, a dentist-owner will still have a significant amount of money left over to support a repayment plan with a much shorter term.

Sure, starting or buying a dental practice requires a significant investment, but many financial institutions offer dental practice acquisition loans at competitive interest rates. With a steady stream of patients, you can pay off your loans on schedule.

It’s true that acquiring and running your own dental practice is not the easiest thing in the world, but it could be the quickest way to pay off your dental school debt.

Dental school loans can be burdensome, but with a bit of extra discipline, effort, and boldness on your part, it won’t be long before you find yourself debt-free.

About The Author

Dr. Gary Salwin leads the Glendale Dental Group, Arizona. He and his team treat dental emergencies and perform a whole range of dental services. He has been practicing dentistry for more than 36 years.