You need a significant outlay of cash to pay for dental school. Unfortunately, many prospective dental students don’t have the funds on hand. That's where dental school student loans may come into play.
According to the American Student Dental Association, the average student loan debt balance for graduating dental school students in 2020 was $304,824.
Thankfully, graduate and dental school student loans are an option. The best loans offer attractive interest rates, flexible repayment options, and other perks that can make navigating dental school a little bit easier. Let’s explore the best private dental school student loans to help you fund your education.
What To Look For In A Dental School Student Loan
As you make your way through dental school, the right student loans will help you tremendously. Here are some key factors to consider when selecting a dental school student loan:
- Fees: Every lender has a slightly different fee structure, which can make a big impact on your costs.
- Interest rates: A slightly lower interest rate could save you thousands of dollars over the life of your loan.
- Loan term length: The repayment timeline will have a big impact on your post-graduation financial situation. Ideally, you’ll find a term length that balances an affordable monthly payment with a debt-free future.
- Borrower protections: Some lenders have built-in protections to help you during a tough financial situation.
The Best Dental School Student Loans
The right dental school student loan for you will vary based on your situation. To help you in your search, we've compiled some of the best dental school student loan options below.
Federal Student Loans
The first place you should look for student loans is the Department of Education. Federal student loans offer better rates and borrower protections than private student loans. But when you need to take out more than The Department of Education will allow, then it’s time to consider your private student loan options.
Federal Direct Unsubsidized and Subsidized loans are available to undergraduate, graduate, and professional students. But the total amount of these loans you can borrow across your educational journey is $138,500. Unless you have significant resources of your own, you'll need a lot more than that.
Repayment starts six months after graduation. For the 2023-2024 school year, the interest rate for unsubsidized loans for graduate and professional students is 7.05%.
Also, see our guide to the best student loans for graduate school.
Ascent offers dental school loans, with an aggregate limit of $400,000 for graduate school loans. Notably, the lender offers a 1% cash-back reward for borrowers, which the student will receive at graduation.
The loans are available to both U.S. citizens and international students. However, international students will need a qualified cosigner who is a resident of the U.S. To get a loan, you or your co-borrower will need to have an annual income of at least $24,000 and meet certain credit requirements.
If approved, you can start making payments right away at $25 or only cover the interest. But you’ll also have the option to defer payments until 12 months after graduation.
Read our full Ascent student loans review here.
Dental students enrolled in a DDS or DMD program can apply for College Ave’s dental school loans. If you qualify, you can take out up to 100% of the cost to attend school, with an upward limit of $150,000.
When you take out a loan through College Ave, you’ll have the option to start making payments right away or defer your payments until 12 months after graduation. The payments can also be delayed past your residency. Loan term options include 5, 8, 10, 15, 20 years
International students are eligible to take out these loans if they have a U.S. Social Security Number and a co-signer. Any student that signs with a cosigner will have access to cosigner release options after making payments for at least two years.
A final perk is that you can tap into a 0.25% interest rate reduction by signing up for automatic payments. The generous grace period and reasonable rates make College Ave an attractive option.
Read our full review of College Ave here.
Earnest offers a graduate school loan, which can be used to cover dental school costs.
In order to qualify for the loan, you must have a credit history of at least three years with no bankruptcies. You must also have a FICO score of at least 650 and a history of on-time payments. If you don’t qualify on your own, you’ll have the option to add a cosigner. However, the cosigner cannot be released from the loan until you pay it off or you refinance the debt.
After graduation, you’ll have a nine-month grace period before you are expected to start making payments. In addition, you’ll have the option to skip a payment without any penalties once each year. That’s a nice perk that can come in handy as you get your financial life moving in the right direction after graduation.
Read our full review of Earnest here.
Sallie Mae offers dental school student loans for up to 100% of your school-certified expenses. After graduation, you’ll have up to 48 months of deferred payments while you complete your residency and fellowship.
The lender offers several repayment strategies, ranging from partial payments while in school to completely deferring payments until after graduation. But choosing to make payments during dental school will lead to a lower interest rate.
If you need the help of a cosigner to qualify for the loan, you can apply to have them released after making 12 on-time principal and interest payments.
On top of the dental school loans, Sallie Mae offered Dental Residency and Relocation loans. This additional loan can help you cover expenses as you travel to interviews, move, and take your board examinations.
Read our full Sallie Mae review here.
The Bottom Line
The best dental school student loans are designed to help students navigate the challenges of obtaining an advanced degree. And depending on the loan provider, you may be able to take advantage of lower rates, and added loan repayment flexibility.
Regardless of which student loan providers you choose, remember to only borrow what you need. While you can expect a high income in the dentistry profession, you'll experience debt freedom that much sooner by minimizing how much you need to borrow during school.
Sarah Sharkey is a personal finance writer covering banking, insurance, credit cards, mortgages and student loans. She has written for numerous finance publications, including MagnifyMoney, Business Insider and ChooseFI. Her blog, Adventurous Adulting, helps young adults get a handle on their finances.