In 2019, four years of dental school cost an average of $251,233 for residents and $321,575 for non-residents. That total cost includes tuition, mandatory fees, and other associated program costs. It does not include the cost of living.
Of course, those are just overall averages. Continue reading for an in-depth look at dental school costs in 2019, including how residency status, year, and type of institution affect those costs.
Resident vs. Non-Resident Dental School Cost by Year
Dental schools offer different tuition rates based on your residency. If you have residency in the state where you’re attending school, you pay the discounted resident rate. If you do not yet have residency, you pay the higher non-resident rate.
For the 2018 to 2019 school, average dental school tuition costs for residents looked like this:
- First year: $49,537
- Second year: $50,234
- Third year: $50,586
- Fourth year: $48,212
That’s $197,108 for four years of tuition based on reported 2018-2019 costs.
Average dental school tuition costs for non-residents looked like this:
- First year: $66,440
- Second year: $67,543
- Third year: $68,152
- Fourth year: $66,256
That’s $266,383 for four years of tuition based on reported 2018-2019 costs—a difference of $69,275.
Private Dental School Cost vs. Public Dental School Cost
The amount you’ll need to pay for dental school also depends on whether you choose a public or a private dental school. In general, public dental schools offer cheaper tuition rates than private dental schools. Choose public and you could save an average of $128,380.
Tuition Costs at Public Dental Schools
Public dental colleges receive state and federal funding, so students pay much less for tuition. For the 2018 to 2019 school year, average dental school costs were:
- First-year tuition and fees: $39,662 for residents
- Total four-year cost: $199,881 for residents
- Total four-year cost: $313,129
Tuition Costs at Private Dental Schools
Private dental schools charge much more for tuition because they lack state and federal funds. For the 2018 to 2019 school year, average dental school costs were:
- First-year tuition: $72,271
- Total four-year cost: $328,261
- Total four-year cost: $334,242
Dental School Costs Overtime – Tuition & Fees
Hoping costs decrease by the time you’re ready to enroll? Unfortunately, the cost of dental school shows no sign of slowing down.
For the 2008-2009 school year, first-year resident dental students owed $25,804 for tuition and fees. Fast forward ten years to the 2018-2019 school year where costs exceed $53,002—a 100+ percent increase. History indicates that costs will only continue to climb.
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Average First-Year Tuition & Mandatory Fees from 2008 to 2019
Dental School Cost by School
Ultimately, your personal dental school costs come down to the specific institution you choose.
Schools with the Lowest Dental School Cost in 2019
If you’re looking for a good deal, check out these schools with the lowest total four-year cost:
- University of Puerto Rico: $98,818
- Texas A&M University: $98,818
- University of Alabama: $119,490
- East Carolina University: $138,258
- Augusta University: $144,077
- East Carolina University (NC): $138,258—residents pay the same
- University of Mississippi: $146,087—residents pay the same
- University of Puerto Rico: $146,818
- Texas A&M University: $162,690
- University of Texas at Houston: $197,289
Schools with the Highest Dental School Cost in 2019
The following dental schools had the highest total four-year cost:
- Midwestern University – IL: $396,958
- Herman Ostrow School of Dentistry of USC (CA): $396,606
- Midwestern University – AZ: $386,407
- University of the Pacific (CA): $381,003—it’s a three-year program
- University of Pennsylvania: $379,737
- Herman Ostrow School of Dentistry of USC (CA): $428,079
- University of Buffalo (NY): $415,113
- Medical University of South Carolina: $408,945
- University of Illinois, Chicago: $406,204
- University of Washington: $402,597
When searching for a dental school, cost should play an important role. But, don’t limit your options to just the lowest priced schools. Expensive schools—even the most expensive schools—could end up being your best option. Scholarships, financial aid, and a program’s prestige all play an important role in helping you choose the right dental school for yourself.
Other Costs Associated with Dental School
Tuition and fees aren’t the only costs you face when entering dental school. Dental students also pay for their instruments, instructional materials, health services, and other fixed costs. How much you owe depends on the school and your year. First-year students pay the most on average.
Average Costs of Dental School Supplies and Services 2018-2019 by Year
|Year||Instrument Costs||Instructional Materials||Health Services||Other Fixed Costs||Total|
Opportunity Cost of Dental School: $255,000+
Aspiring dentists typically spend four years earning a bachelor’s degree and then an additional four years in dental school. While you’re studying dentistry, your peers from undergrad are making full-time wages—money you miss out on.
The average graduate with a bachelor’s degree in chemistry earns $63,818 per year just starting out in the field. If that salary remains constant for four years, you’re missing out on $255,272—that’s about equal to the four-year cost of dental school. That figure doesn’t include possible employee benefits like student loan repayment assistance, matching retirement contributions, bonuses, or discounted company stock.
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Is Dental School Worth the Cost?
By now, you’re probably wondering, is dental school worth the high cost?
To answer that question, let’s explore the average dentist salary and dental student debt.
Average Dental Salary
Will you earn enough as a dentist to justify the high dental school costs? Let’s see.
In May 2018, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported a median annual wage of $156,240 for all dentists, making it one of the highest paid professions in America. Of course, your salary won’t start out this high.
Payscale shows that dentists with less than one year of experience earn a starting salary of $117,013 (based on 281 salaries). This bumps up to $121,947 after one or two years of experience (based on 1,092 salaries). While this is still significantly more than your fellow chemistry majors, it’s not guaranteed.
The BLS, which collects data from employers, reports that the lowest 10% of dentists earned less than $72,840 in 2018. A new dentist is more likely to belong to, or sit just above, the lower 10%. This suggests earnings far below $117,000.
Dental School Debt
Dental students can borrow money for tuition, fees, related educational expenses, and living expenses. All that borrowing adds up.
In 2018, the American Dental Association interviewed dental seniors. Their findings revealed some staggering statistics about dental student debt:
- Indebted 2018 graduates had an average total educational debt (undergrad + dental school) of $285,184
- 80% of indebted 2018 graduates reported more than $100,000 in total educational debt
- Dental school graduates in 2018 had 500% more educational debt than dental students who graduated in 1990
Just for an estimate, suppose the average dental school graduate borrowed all Grad PLUS loans at a rate of 7.08%.
Their $285,184 in student loan debt translates to an expected monthly payment of $3,323. That’s assuming you enroll in the standard 10 year plan. Over those 10 years, you pay $113,575.73 in interest for a grand repayment total of $393,759.73.
So, is Dental School Worth It?
Dental school costs and debt are at an all-time high.
Adding average educational debt, accrued interest, and missed earnings together yields a total cost of $653,759.
Whether it’s worth it really comes down to these questions:
How committed are you to becoming a dentist?
Deciding to quit halfway through dental school or graduating and then choosing a different profession will make paying back your dental school debt more difficult. Only enter this profession if it’s truly what you want to do. Understand how long it will take to become a dentist and make sure you are committed to that length of time.
Can you limit your total educational debt?
Limit your educational debt by living at home while in school, starting at a community college for undergrad before transferring to a four-year school, borrowing only what you need, working while enrolled, and seeking out colleges with the best scholarship opportunities. The less debt you take on, the more “worth it” dentistry is.
Do you trust yourself to aggressively pay off the debt?
As a dentist, you’ll make more money than you ever have before. Do you trust yourself to use your high income to pay back the debt? If not, you might live a lavish life, but you’ll end up paying a whole lot more for your education.
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“College Ave Student Loans products are made available through either Firstrust 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. (1)College Ave Refi Education loans are not currently available to residents of Maine. (2)The 0.25% auto-pay interest rate reduction applies as long as the borrower or cosigner, if applicable, enrolls in auto-pay and authorizes our loan servicer to automatically deduct your monthly payments from a valid bank account via Automated Clearing House (“ACH”). The rate reduction applies for as long as the monthly payment amount is successfully deducted from the designated bank account and is suspended during periods of forbearance and certain deferments. Variable rates may increase after consummation. (3)$5,000 is the minimum requirement to refinance. The maximum loan amount is $300,000 for those with medical, dental, pharmacy or veterinary doctorate degrees, and $150,000 for all other undergraduate or graduate degrees. (4)This informational repayment example uses typical loan terms for a refi borrower with a Full Principal & Interest Repayment and a 10-year repayment term, has a $40,000 loan and a 5.5% Annual Percentage Rate (“APR”): 120 monthly payments of $434.11 while in the repayment period, for a total amount of payments of $52,092.61. 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 12/14/2020. Variable interest rates may increase after consummation.”
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