Worrying about student loan debt? You’re not alone

After graduation, your dental school loans will eventually go into repayment. Staying on top of your finances will ensure future success as a practicing dentist. Although debt and finance management are subjects rarely taught in dental school, understanding your debt is the first step to conquering it.

New dentists have options that are worth exploring, such as federal loan forgiveness and student loan refinancing. In 2020, the federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act provided important support to small business dental practices. The CARES Act also provided federal interest waivers for student loan debt relief in effect through December 2020. For the latest information, including any changes or extensions on the waivers, check the Federal Student Aid Coronavirus Info page.

Resources as you approach graduation

The ADA’s practice management podcast Beyond the Mouth is back for a third season. The eight-episode podcast season was recorded during summer 2020 via Zoom as the coronavirus pandemic unfolded worldwide.

Each podcast episode addresses member questions about a variety of issues such as organized dentistry, patient privacy, retaining staff, managing stress, ergonomics and more. New episodes air every Wednesday through Dec. 9 at ADA.org/BeyondTheMouth. Listeners can also subscribe through Apple iTunes, Google Play, Spotify, Stitcher and other streaming services.

The podcast host, Dr. Elizabeth “Betsy” Shapiro, an ADA Practice Institute director, interviews guests who share stories that all dentists can relate to — from repaying student loan debt to buying and selling a dental practice.

Many students and new dentists worry that it is impossible for them to ever consider opening a new practice, or at least not until they’ve been in practice for several years. In episode 20 of season three, Dr. Shapiro speaks with guest Alex Macielak from Laurel Road on the topic of student loans and repayment options.

Macielak sheds light on commonly held misconceptions surrounding educational debt that new dentists deal with after graduating dental school. “Just by virtue of having student loans, [this] shouldn’t preclude you from qualifying for a practice loan,” says Macielak.

“The lenders that are financing those practices fully understand that dentists have had to incur a significant amount of debt to get to where they are.” He adds, “Those lenders that are financing the practice loans expect and understand you to have student loans. So I wouldn’t say don’t look to open a practice until you’ve retired your student loan debt.”

When looking at a dentist’s loan portfolio, Macielak says, “student loan debt is only one piece of the financial pie.” He shares strategies for loan repayment planning to help new dentists reach their financial goals. Macielak also discusses how dentists can manage their student loan debt by consolidating and locking in a low interest rate, or choosing to take advantage of interest waivers and flexible repayment options under the CARES Act passed in March 2020.

Don’t wait until you graduate

The ADA offers valuable tools for students and new dentists to help understand and overcome debt. To get more information, visit the ADA for New Dentists, Manage My Debt. In addition, the ADA breaks down the myths to help you simplify the loan process. Check out the resources at Demystifying the Practice Loan Process for helpful tips.

~ADA Center for Professional Success

This blog post was sponsored by the ADA Center for Professional Success.

Disclaimer: This article is not intended to provide legal or financial advice. Dental practices that require professional advice should consult a certified financial planner, a tax consultant or an attorney licensed to practice in their jurisdictions.

ADA Center for Professional Success

The ADA Center for Professional Success provides practice management content and decision support tools with the goal of helping members practice successfully, learn conveniently and live well. Visit the Center at Success.ADA.org.

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