Five Tips on How to Manage Dental School Loan Debt

By Nicole Phillips, CFP, PracticeCFO

The American Dental Education Association estimates the average debt per dental school graduate in 2021 was a staggering $301,583. While being a dentist can be a high paying and fulfilling career, managing student loans can be a daunting challenge. Here are five tips on managing your dental school loan debt.

Nicole Phillips, CFP, PracticeCFO

1. Know Your Loan Details

The first step in managing your student loans is to know where and how to find all your student loan information and receive notifications. The best place for borrowers to start is the National Student Loan Data System ( You will need to know or create your Federal Student Aid Login information. This will give you access to your student loan balances, type of loans, interest rates, payment history, and your current loan servicer(s).

Once you have your student loan servicer, you need to also create a login on their online portal. If you have any private student loans, you will need to have individual logins for each provider. If you do not know your private student loan provider, your credit report will have a record. You may access your credit report at Once you know all the details surrounding your student loans, you can start creating a plan surrounding your student loans.

2. Consider Consolidating Your Student Loans

It might seem like a full-time job managing your various loans and logins if you have multiple loans with different loan servicers. The good news is most federal loans can be consolidated. Student loan consolidation is a way to combine multiple federal loans into a single direct consolidation loan with a weighted average interest rate. This would streamline the payment process, potentially lower monthly payments, and may extend the repayment term. However, loan consolidation is not for everyone as it can result in paying more interest over time. It’s also very important to note that if you are part of a forgiveness program under an Income Driven Repayment (IDR) plan already, the clock restarts when you consolidate.

You may consolidate your student loans at

3. Consider an Income Driven Repayment (IDR) Plan

Income-driven repayment options can help make your loan payments affordable based on your income and family size. There are four income-driven repayment plans: Income Contingent Repayment (ICR), Income-Based Repayment (IBR), Pay-As-You Earn Repayment (PAYE), and Revised Pay-As-You-Earn Repayment (REPAYE).

IBR is the only IDR plan for borrowers with FFEL Program loans. IBR limits payments to 10% or 15% of your discretionary income and offers forgiveness after 20 or 25 years of repayment depending on when the loans were issued. PAYE can be a great option if you can prove that you need financial assistance, which simply means that PAYE loan repayment amount is less than the standard 10-year repayment amount. Under PAYE, payments are set at 10% of your discretionary income and forgiveness is available after 20 years. REPAYE can be a good option for high income earners, as needing financial assistance is not a requirement. Like PAYE, REPAYE caps payments at 10% of your discretionary income. However, under PAYE, your payment will never be more than the standard 10-year repayment amount. Under REPAYE, there is no dollar cap, only a percentage cap. REPAYE offers student loan forgiveness after 20 years for loans originated from undergraduate studies and 25 years for loans originated from graduate studies. REPAYE also includes a student loan interest subsidy in which the government will pay 50% of accrued interest. ICR generally isn’t a favorable option and should be avoided.

4. Recertify Every Year

It is crucial that you remember to recertify every year prior to your due date. Your student loan servicer is required to let you know when your recertification paperwork is due. If you forget to recertify, your payment could increase. If you are on an IDR plan and you fail to recertify, your unpaid interest could be capitalized—added to your principal balance. When this happens, you will be paying interest on interest.

5. Be Your Own Advocate

The student loan landscape is an ever-changing one. With President Biden’s student loan debt relief plan being contested in the Supreme Court and the forbearance deadline quickly approaching, it is always a good idea to stay up to date on latest student loan news. You don’t want to miss out on any key information. Ask questions and take ownership of your student loan situation.

Student loan management can be an overwhelming but incredibly rewarding task. Managing and incorporating your student loans into your financial plan is a crucial part to reaching your financial goals.

For more free education on student loans and other financial topics, check out our Associates on Fire Website ( For more interest on PracticeCFO, visit