How Biden's student loan forgiveness program will affect dental practitioners

President Joe Biden plans to forgive up to $20,000 in student loan debt to eligible borrowers, possibly providing relief to certain dental professionals.

The plan lists several initiatives to lower student loan debt, according to an Aug. 24 news release from the White House. Among them:

  • The Department of Education will cancel up to $20,000 in debt to Pell Grant recipients and up to $10,000 in debt cancellation to non-Pell Grant recipients. 
  • Federal student loan repayments are paused through Dec. 31.
  • Borrowers are eligible if their individual income is less than $125,000, or $250,000 for married couples. 
  • The Department of Education is proposing to cap monthly payments for undergraduate loans at 5 percent of a borrower’s discretionary income and provide additional loan forgiveness to those who have worked at a nonprofit organization, in the military, or in federal, state, tribal or local government.

Annual compensation varies among dental professionals. Here are the average annual salaries for six dental roles, according to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics:

Dentist: $177,770

Dentist, general: $167,160

Oral and maxillofacial surgeon: $311,460

Orthodontist: $267,280

Prosthodontist: $143,730

Dentist, all other specialties: $179,400

Dental hygienist: $81,360

Dental assistant: $42,510

The cost of dental education at public and private universities has more than tripled in the last 50 years, while the average dental student debt has also increased over the years, according to the American Dental Association.

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. 

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