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    The Ultimate Guide To Dental School Loans

    Dental School

    Choosing a dental career is a great choice. It’s a well-paying field, but the cost of education is on the higher side. When it comes to qualifying for a student loan, it’s no cakewalk. The entire process can be quite complicated unless you’re well-informed. That said, you need to consider all prospective options before you decide on getting a loan to cover your dental school bills.

    The American Dental Education Association says that at least 39% of dental school students have debt equating to $300,000 or more. This average value is five times more than what the number was 30 years ago. This sum might be more than staggering and overwhelming, but with the right planning, research, and choices, it could perhaps be a bit less daunting. 

    Keeping this in mind, let's give you a clearer idea of how these loans work, the process involved, and how you can get the best rates.

    Private Dental School Loans

    If you’re looking into private dental school loans, you need to dig up a fair amount of information before deciding on the right lender. If you do the proper research, you can find private lenders who offer lower fees and rates for student loans than federal bodies with similar loans. Based on this, you can make a better and cost-effective decision. 

    If you need to seal a good deal on such private loans, you must select the best-priced lender and meet all their relevant eligibility requirements. It’s best to look into other viable options such as federal loans, scholarships, and similar. Another option is to look for private student loans that will help you pay for dental school. 

    There are two standard methods for getting private student loans:

    • Via bank
    • Via Credit Union

    Private loans are typically credit-based, which implies that having a better credit score will increase your chances of getting a dental school loan. You have options for variable and fixed rates when it comes to these loans.

    In general, you must have a commendable credit score to qualify for private student loans at affordable rates. If your credit isn’t that perfect, you can always choose to cosign with someone with a good credit score. Make sure to keep an eye on all the interest rates offered and compare the repayment plans offered by different lenders. This way, you’ll be able to filter out the best available deals.

    Recommended Private Dental School Lenders

    Provider Site
    • 4 months of free Chegg Study (Undergraduate)
    • Student loan military benefits
    • Help with special circumstances
    • Different repayment options
    • Easier cosigning terms
    • Low fixed and variable rates
    • Refinancing Options For Students and Parents
    • Career Coaching
    • Zero Origination Fees and No Prepayment Penalties
    • Low-interest loans
    • Funding for college
    • Good refinance rates
    • Lots of benefits at work
    • Refinancing option
    • Help with personal finances

    Sallie Mae

    ·       Fixed APR: 4.75 – 11.98%

    ·       Variable APR: 2.25 – 11.61%

    ·       Minimum Credit Score: N/A

    College Ave

    ·     Fixed APR: 3.49 - 12.99%

    ·     Variable APR: 1.09 - 11.98%

    ·     Minimum Credit Score: 580 - 600


    ·     Fixed APR: 2.99 – 6.28%

    ·     Variable APR: 2.25 – 6.28%

    ·     Minimum Credit Score: N/A


    ·     Fixed APR: 2.98 – 5.49%

    ·     Variable APR: 1.99 – 5.34%

    ·     Minimum Credit Score: 650


    ·     Fixed APR: 2.98 – 5.79%

    ·     Variable APR:  1.99 – 5.61%

    ·     Minimum Credit Score: 680

    Sallie Mae Dental School Loan – An Overview

    Sallie Mae offers dental school student loans at variable and fixed interest rates. There’s an option that will help you defer the process of repayment during your residency time. Sallie Mae offers a repayment period of up to 20 years to help students build up their dental careers. You can choose to make interest payments every month, or you can pay a fixed amount each month while you’re still in school. Some students opt to defer their obligations until after the degree program has concluded. 

    One of the significant advantages of the Sallie Mae dental school loan for students is the opportunity to save up to 32% on the total loan amount with these repayment options. Moreover, the embedded deferment option represents a desirable deal. By comparison, federal options don’t exhibit the same degree of flexibility Sallie Mae makes available to borrowers. For instance, Sallie Mae provides residency and relocation options designed to help cover moving costs and other associated expenses.

    Federal Dental School Loans

    Including the following, there are several advantages to filling out the Free Application For Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), which grants you access to many federal, state, and school aid options. 

    • Federal Direct Unsubsidized Loans: Generally known as Stafford loans, this option entails borrowing a set amount. If the loan offered comes at a fixed-rate, it will be unsubsidized 
    • Federal Direct Graduate PLUS Loan: Direct Graduate PLUS Loans offer help in covering any remaining balance you have if you’re in need, which is not covered under the financial aid already provided
    • School-based aid: Your school distributes additional assistance based on your eligibility for the FAFSA. You can apply and qualify for scholarships, loans, or a Federal Work-Study position. Programs like federal work-study positions will give you some part-time work on campus for you to earn money for your monthly expenses
    • State Aid: You’ll come across many state-sponsored financial aid solutions that you can apply for while filing your FAFSA. The availability of these grants and scholarships, just like school-based aid, varies from one state to another

    Federal Direct Unsubsidized Loans

    Students can file a FAFSA application for dental school to access federal student loans applicable to financing their degree aspirations.

    These loans are available for both undergraduates, and those individuals working toward a professional or graduate degree. However, the terms and conditions of an Unsubsidized Direct Loan will vary for dental students and undergrads. The following are some of the dissimilarities.

    • All students pay the same fee: For both graduate students and undergraduate students, a loan fee of 1.062% accompanies Direct Unsubsidized loans
    • Higher interest rates for dental students: The fixed interest rate for graduate and professional students stands at 6.60%. This figure is higher compared to the usual 5.05% rate for undergraduate financing
    • Dental students can borrow more: Dental students, on an annual basis, can borrow up to $20,500 for their advanced degree, while undergrads can borrow only up to $12,500

    Federal Grad PLUS Loans

    Grad PLUS Loans are proposed and offered by the federal government for graduate students and scholars pursuing a professional degree to pay for their educational expenses. Grad PLUS loans provide somewhat higher costs compared to unsubsidized direct loans that are accessible to undergraduates too. 

    • Grad plus Borrowable amount is the cost of attendance, which is decided by the school minus other financial assistance you receive 
    • A loan fee of 4.236% is assessed for Grad PLUS Loans, which is nearly four times the fee of an unsubsidized loan
    • The interest rate of Grad PLUS is 7.08%, which is more than half of a percentage point than the 6.60% rate of Unsubsidized Direct Loans

    How To Refinance Dental School Loans?

    As a best-followed practice, people with a student loan often should refinance. But only after making sure you won’t be taking out additional loans for school. To emerge in the practitioner field with a lot of student debt is common these days. For most dental students, that means refinancing, which can be accomplished one of the two ways described below: 

    • During residency
    • After completing residency

    Before deciding on refinancing your dental school loans, consider applying for a low-interest loan with your credit score and debt-to-income ratio to land a better option.

    • Refinancing During Dental Residency

    Stipends are available from some dental residency programs to help students lay a strong financial foundation. If your program features this option, consider refinancing your loans before completing the course to take advantage of more flexible repayment terms during the duration of the degree. 

    • Refinancing After Your Dental Residency

    Refinancing after residency is a good option because you’re more likely to have better and clearer career options. Moreover, you’ll be earning a higher income after concluding your residency. It would be the right time to think and make a move in your refinancing. It’s when you’re exploring better career paths and learning more about what you possibly can achieve. 

    • Refinance Your Dental School Loans With ELFI

    The Education Loan Finance (ELFI) offer is a lifesaver thanks to the excellent rates available when refinancing. ELFI promises a seamless experience that also entails the following benefits: 

    • No application fees
    • No origination fees
    • No prepayment penalties

    Dental School Loan Forgiveness Programs

    It’s common for dental graduates to pursue their education with the help of student loans. As much as it sounds helpful, it has its own set of cons since the graduates mostly end up with massive student debt, making it difficult for them to pursue their careers. Fortunately, federal and state governments offer many loan forgiveness programs to help students get out of debt without paying. Some of those programs are as follows:

    • NHSC - National Health Service Corps Loan Repayment Program
      • NHSC aims to provide healthcare services in Health Professional Shortage Areas (HPSA) by recruiting dentists and other health service providers
      • In exchange for the services provided, NHSC aids such students in repaying their debts by funding them $50,000 for full-time services and $25,000 for part-time services
    • S2S LRP - National Health Service Corps Students to Service Loan Repayment Program
      • In their last year of dental school, students can apply to the NHSC Students for Service Loan Repayment Program
      • Applicants must be prepared to provide at least three years of service in Health Professional Shortage Areas (HPSA) 
      • Under this program, students can receive up to $120,000 for repaying their student loans. Like NHSC, priority is available for students who commit for long terms in addition to students from disadvantaged backgrounds, since there’s only a limited amount of funding available 
      • There will be an online eligibility screening initially, and it’ll take about three weeks to complete the NHSC S2S LRP application process
    • PSLF – Public Service Loan Forgiveness
      • This program helps students who have availed loan services from William D. Ford Federal Direct Loan, Consolidation Loans, and PLUS loans in repaying their debts
      • The criteria to qualify for PSLF is to work full-time for a non-profit organization/agency or be employed by the government
      • PSLF applicants must be employed at eligible organizations at the time of their application. However, ones working for independent, for-profit contractors who work for such qualifying agencies are not eligible to apply for PSLF 

    Dental School Scholarship Opportunities

    Students must try to do a lot of expense-downsizing to cope up with loan repayment. Getting a scholarship can help you cut down your tuition expenses and make a significant financial impact on your life. Multiple scholarships are offered by colleges, dental associations, as well as federal and state governments. 

    • There are a couple of scholarships that are offered by the American Dental Education Association to predoctoral dental students and for baccalaureate students with $2000 up to $2500 annually
    • The California Dental Association provides a maximum scholarship of $5000 for academically sound students at dental schools in California and accredited to the state
    • Specific schools, such as The Kentucky University and its College of Dentistry, offer numerous scholarships for high-performing students under specific terms 

    Income-Driven Repayment Programs for Dentists

    It’s crucial to pick the right kind of loan service whenever students choose to pursue their degrees with an educational loan. In that order, income-driven repayment programs are helpful as they offer great flexibility for students to repay their debts. 

    Even if the student hasn’t taken a loan under such a program, they could choose to work for an employer that provides student loan repayment assistance as a benefit or perk of such employment. Nowadays, numerous companies assist their employees with their student loan repayment. Accordingly, the onus is on graduates to choose the employer that provides the most significant monetary advantages.

    Another way to manage student loan repayment is to mitigate personal expenses. Thus, the student will be able to save all the cash backs received from using such cards. It would be better if the student could receive any cash rewards for such payments. Even if it’s small, these savings will help dental graduates repay debt quickly.

    Students can also think about refinancing their loans. Refinancing a loan involves obtaining a new loan to pay off the educational loan. Refinancing has its own set of pros and cons. The significant advantage is that the student can find a loan that has a lower interest rate than his student loan, which could reduce the monthly repayment amount. 

    Can I Get A Dental School Loan With Bad Credit?

    If you have a bad credit score, you might not wholly disqualify from getting a student loan. Most federal student loans don’t factor in too much of your credit history, like in the case of private dental school loans. Hence, you can comfortably pick this option without re-evaluating your credit score. If your federal loan is not enough to cover all your expenses, you might have to look into private loans. 

    To get student loans for bad credit, you can incorporate a cosigner who has a good credit score. You can’t have a federal student loan balance or apply for a private loan at the same time. Furthermore, your application might be rejected if you have previously accepted federal grants. 

    Bottom Line

    Getting a student loan for a dental school loan is a significant financial decision, and it’s vital to be well-informed before choosing the loan scheme that will suit you the best. Be it a Federal loan, private loan, or any other financing option, read up on all the essential aspects of the program and review all the pros and cons of each choice before making a final decision.


    1.   Can I go to dental school for free?

    Some dental schools offer a 100 % fee waiver that will technically allow you to earn your degree for free. However, these programs require top-notch academic performance and high scores for specific scholarship exams.

    2.   Is dental school worth the debt?

    One might think that dental school debt can sink a person as it could amount to a quarter-million dollars or even more. But, in reality, this investment will get you a degree that can help you make more money within a short period if you are academically sound and have the will to do better.

    3.   What is the average dental school debt?

    The average dental school debt in the US is around $300,000.

    4.   How to pay for dental school without loans?

    To pay for dental school without loans, you must either have a quarter-million sitting in your bank or study hard to crack scholarship exams. You can apply for fellowships or grants that will take the hook off your financial burden of a whooping student loan.