Student loan debt & dentistry: 4 dental leaders' thoughts

As the cost to attend dental school continues to rise, so does the student debt that dentists shoulder.

Four dental leaders' thoughts on the topic:

Editor's note: Responses have been lightly edited for length and clarity.

Matt Carlston, DMD. Vice President of Marketing and Partner Recruitment for Comfort Dental Group: I think that these young dentists don't fully understand how much debt they have and how hard it is to get that paid off. [Comfort Dental] tries to lay out the numbers and help them try and understand that. I haven't met a dental student who goes out and opens their own practice from scratch. It just doesn't happen anymore. They have so much debt, and they can't get the financing for these practices that they want to open.

Michael Davis, DDS. Smiles of Santa Fe (N.M.): Unfortunately, your student debt load has severely handicapped [emerging dental professionals]. This must be paid off ASAP. Numbers of potential employers will attempt to exploit you because of your compromised position. Believe the written contract, not verbal promises.

Steve Kuchuris. COO of Yellowstone Family Dental (Billings, Mont.): Younger dentists are leaving dental school with more in debt than in the past, sometimes as much as $500,000 in student loans before they start working. This heavy debt makes it difficult for them to open their own practices. Startup costs include securing real estate and buying equipment such as a 3D-imaging cone beam, digital scanner, a Cerec machine and lasers, which greatly add to the debt.

Rajdeep Randhawa, DDS. Innovative Dentistry (Rahway, N.J.): The dental schools will still be graduating thousands of dentists every year with a crazy amount of debt load, without any moral or ethical concerns about if they are trained properly in the business aspect of dentistry, and how will the new graduates succeed in the challenging real world situation and pay off their debt?

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