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Top 10 Cheapest Dental Schools to Have on Your Radar in 2024

Dentistry is ranked as one of the best jobs in America. It’s a great career path that many of our clients choose. However, dental school tuition can be expensive.

The typical dental school graduates we consult with have around $400,000 in student loan debt. That amount would be much lower had they looked into lower-cost dental schools. If you’re considering this career path, here’s a list of the cheapest dental schools.

Methodology for the cheapest dental schools

To create our list of the cheapest dental schools, we analyzed the most recent data from the 2021-2022 ADA Health Policy Institute findings.

As we analyzed the survey results, we were interested in the total cost for dentists. This includes dental school tuition, fees, supplies and health services.

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Top 10 cheapest dental schools for residents

10. University of Louisville

Total cost (four years): $184,584

Annual tuition (first year): $36,242

9. University of Kentucky

Total cost (four years): $177,447

Annual tuition (first year): $34,400

8. University of Mississippi

Total cost (four years): $174,921

Annual tuition (first year): $31,167

7. UT Health Science Center at Houston

Total cost (four years): $168,916

Annual tuition (first year): $32,698

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6. University of Alabama

Total cost (four years): $147,975

Annual tuition (first year): $29,782

5. East Carolina University

Total cost (four years): $146,623

Annual tuition (first year): $29,994

4. Texas A&M University

Total cost (four years): $146,544

Annual tuition (first year): $23,112

3. University of Texas (UT) Health Science Center at San Antonio

Total cost (four years): $141,693

Annual tuition (first year): $24,150

2. Augusta University

Total cost (four years): $140,845

Annual tuition (first year): $25,544

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1. University of Puerto Rico

Total cost (four years): $120,291

Annual tuition (first year): $17,000

Private vs. public dental schools

As you look at the list, you’ll notice that all of these universities are public schools. In general, public schools cost less than private schools. You won’t find a private school on the list until you get down to Howard University at No. 23. Howard University has a total four-year cost of $223,345.

The University of Puerto Rico is by far the cheapest dental school. In fact, it ranked No. 1 on our list of the cheapest medical schools too. Residents of Texas have several inexpensive dental school options with three schools in the top 10.

Top 10 cheapest dental schools for non-residents

10. Marquette University

Total cost (four years): $286,470

9. Meharry Medical College

Total cost (four years): $278,439

8. Lake Erie College of Osteopathic Medicine (LECOM) School of Dental Medicine

Total cost (four years): $275,747

7. UT Health Science Center at Houston

Total cost (four years): $232,114

6. Howard University

Total cost (four years): $223,345

2. Texas A&M University

Total cost (four years): $189,744

4. Southern Illinois University

Total cost (four years): $185,631

3. UT Health Science Center at San Antonio

Total cost (four years): $184,893

2. University of Mississippi

Total cost (four years): $174,921

1. East Carolina University

Total cost (four years): $146,623

Going to school in your own state of residence is often the cheapest option. But if you’re looking outside of your state, there are great dental school options on this list.

Many of the same schools made both the resident and non-resident lists. Also note that two private schools also made our list of cheapest dental schools for non-residents: Howard University and LECOM School of Dental Medicine.

Cheapest private dental schools

5. University of Pittsburgh

Resident total cost (four years): $292,608

Non-resident total cost (four years): $333,720

4. Temple University

Resident total cost (four years): $287,537

Non-resident total cost (four years): $318,889

3. Marquette University

Resident total cost (four years): $251,830

Non-resident total cost (four years): $286,470

2. LECOM School of Dental Medicine

Resident total cost (four years): $275,747

Non-resident total cost (four years): $275,747

1. Howard University

Resident total cost (four years): $223,345

Non-resident total cost (four years): $223,345

As we analyzed private dental schools, the five schools listed above stood out as the cheapest program options overall. Considering the most expensive private school program is more than $400,000 for four years, these schools are cost-effective options if you’re looking for a private school education.

Most expensive dental schools

Keep in mind this does not include living expenses. Otherwise, NYU dental might top the list.

5. University of the Pacific

Resident (three years): $407,577

Non-resident (three years): $407,577

4. New York University

Resident (three years): $409,341

Non-resident (three years): $409,341

3. Midwestern University — Glendale, Arizona Campus

Resident (four years): $414,172

Non-resident (four years): $414,172

2. University of Southern California Herman Ostrow School of Dentistry

Resident (four years): $424,169

Non-resident (four years): $424,169

1. Midwestern University — Downers Grove, Illinois Campus

Resident (four years): $424,420

Non-resident (four years): $424,420

If you’re looking to graduate from dental school with the smallest amount of debt possible, these schools are not for you. For most private dental schools, there’s no difference in cost for if you’re a resident or not.

The University of the Pacific stands out as one of the few dental schools in the U.S. that offers a three-year Doctor of Dental Surgery (DDS) program. The scary thing about dental school debt is that published dental school costs might not even be correct. It’s possible that you could finish school with more debt than what’s listed in this survey.

How to repay dental school loans

No matter where you end up going to dental school, most likely you’ll graduate with a large amount of student loan debt. Dental school tuition fees are high, but there are a lot of extra costs that create more debt.

When it comes to the best way to repay your loans, there’s no perfect answer. The right choice for you could be the worst one for someone else. However, you do have repayment options to consider.

Income driven-repayment plans

If you have big debt from federal student loans, it might make sense to sign up for one of the four income-driven repayment (IDR) plans available:

  • Pay As You Earn (PAYE)
  • Saving on a Valuable Education (SAVE), formerly REPAYE
  • Income-Based Repayment (IBR)
  • Income-Contingent Repayment (ICR)

On each of these plans, borrowers pay 10% to 20% of their discretionary income. After 20 to 25 years of payments (depending on the plan), your remaining balance will be forgiven. Note that unlike Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF), IDR loan forgiveness isn’t tax-free. This forgiveness is considered disposable income and is taxable. If you go this route, it’s smart to set aside extra money so you’re ready when your loan balance is forgiven.

This is an especially good strategy if your debt is large in relation to your income.

Private loans for dental school

If you’re attending one of the lower-cost dental schools, you may find that private student loans are the way to go. Normally, we’d advise against this. But because these schools cost less, it's possible that you could score a much lower interest rate with a private loan, depending on the specific program you gain admission to. If you go down this road, check out our private loan page for cash-back bonuses, which will put some of that money back in your pocket.

Refinance your dental school loans

If your debt-to-income ratio is moderate, it might be smart to refinance your dental school loans. By doing this, you can cut thousands of dollars of interest payments off your loans and get them paid off faster.

Keep in mind that when you refinance, your federal loans will turn into private loans. This means you’ll lose access to loan forgiveness, IDR plans and other federal protections. Make sure you don’t need these programs before refinancing.

Get help with a loan repayment plan

If you’ve already taken on student loans to pay for dental school tuition but aren’t sure of the best way to pay them off, let us help. We’ve consulted on over $1.34 billion in student debt and have seen people’s lives change by coming up with a more effective repayment plan. A quick investment of your time and a one-time fee could potentially lead to thousands in savings and fewer headaches related to your debt. Book a consultation today.

If you're thinking about attending dental school and are concerned about graduating with massive six-figure debt, we’d love to help you. Our pre-debt consult will ease some of the stress and anxiety you’re feeling. We’ll work together to create a custom loan repayment plan that makes sense for you and your long-term goals.

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