Dental education cost has tripled in last 50 years: ADA

The cost of dental education at public and private universities has more than tripled in the last 50 years, according to data from the American Dental Association.

The ADA shared several ways dental education has changed over the years in an August 2021 report. 

Between 1969 and 1970, the average cost of dental education was $42,618 for public schools and $84,768 for private schools, adjusted for inflation. In 2019-20, dental school cost $205,019 for public schools and $335,536 for private schools. 

Average dental student debt was $58,603 in 1980, adjusted for inflation, and skyrocketed to $292,169 in 2019. 

Other findings include:

  • There were 16,555 enrolled dental students in the 1969-70 academic year and 25,995 enrolled in the 2020-21 academic year, which the ADA noted was the most ever.
  • In 1980, 13.6 percent of dental school graduates were women, which increased to 51.4 percent in 2020.
  • The racial diversity of dental school graduates increased between 1990 and 2020, with the percentage of white graduates decreasing from 74.8 percent to 50.3 percent. 
  • There were 42 accredited dental schools in 1950 and 68 accredited dental schools as of 2021.
  • The number of international students attending U.S. dental schools increased from 113 during the 1985-1986 academic year to 708 during the 2019-20 academic year.
  • Eighty-three percent of dentists pursuing advanced dental education programs were male and 17 percent were female in 1983-84. In 2019-20, those percentages evened out to 52.4 percent male and 47.5 percent female.
  • The mean GPA of dental school applicants in 2000 was 3.2. The mean GPA was 3.4 in 2020.
  • In 1938, only 11 states accepted the National Board Dental Examinations. That number increased to 33 in 1960 and by 1990, all licensing jurisdictions in the U.S. accepted the examinations.
  • Non-patient licensing examinations have become more widely accepted over the years. For example, Minnesota was the only state in 2010 to accept the Canadian OSCE, a non-patient-based licensing exam, for University of Minnesota dental school graduates or Canadian dentists applying for licensure in the U.S. As of July 2021, 21 states and the District of Columbia accepted a manikin-based licensing examination. Additionally, six states have fully or partially adopted the Dental Licensure Objective Structured Clinical Examination, which uses 3D models. 
  • During the 1999-2000 academic year, there were 267,318 logged hours spent on instruction and patient care. In 2018-19, there were 339,728 clocked hours.

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