State and federal dental school debt forgiveness and repayment programs pay a portion of college debt for dentists who work in the public sector or in an underserved area for a certain period of time.

A dental school debt forgiveness program may be the right repayment strategy if your career goals align with one of these program’s requirements. If not, consider another dental school loan repayment strategy such as student loan refinancing or income-driven repayment.

» MORE: Lenders that refinance dental school loans

Dental school debt forgiveness programs

1. State dental school debt forgiveness programs

Find out from your state if both federal and private student loans are eligible.

All 50 U.S. states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico have programs designed to help dentists repay dental school loans. The American Dental Education Association has a comprehensive list of programs available for dentists.

2. Public Service Loan Forgiveness

For federal student loans only.

Public Service Loan Forgiveness is a federal program that forgives borrowers’ remaining student loan balance after they make 10 years’ worth of payments while working for the government or a qualifying nonprofit organization. This program is an option available to dentists who work for a qualifying employer. To see if your employer qualifies, submit the PSLF employer certification form to the U.S. Department of Education.

3. National Health Service Corps Loan Repayment Program

For federal and private student loans.

The National Health Service Corps Loan Repayment Program offers up to $50,000 in tax-free student loan repayment for dentists who work at least two years in a Health Professional Shortage Area.

A Health Professional Shortage Area is a designated geographic location, population or facility that has a lack of primary care, dental care or mental health providers. You can search for these areas through the Health Resources & Services Administration website.

You may qualify for the National Health Service Corps Loan Repayment Program if you’re in general or pediatric dentistry. Parent PLUS loans aren’t eligible.

4. National Health Service Corps Students to Service Loan Repayment Program

For federal and private student loans.

The National Health Service Corps Students to Service Loan Repayment Program offers up to $120,000 in tax-free student loan repayment (up to $30,000 a year for four years) for students in their last year of dental school who agree to work full time for at least three years in a Health Professional Shortage Area.

You may qualify if you plan to practice general or pediatric dentistry. Parent PLUS loans aren’t eligible.

» MORE: Average dental school debt

5. Health Resources and Services Administration Faculty Loan Repayment Program

For federal and private student loans.

The HRSA’s Faculty Loan Repayment Program offers up to $40,000 in student loan repayment for health professionals — including dentists — who serve as a faculty member at a health professions school for at least two years.

To qualify, you must come from an economically or environmentally disadvantaged background.

6. National Institutes of Health Loan Repayment Programs

For federal and private student loans.

There are eight National Institutes of Health Loan Repayment Programs that each offer up to $35,000 in student loan repayment per year for dentists in biomedical or biobehavioral research careers. Each of the programs targets researchers in various fields including clinical, pediatric, AIDS and contraception and infertility.

Your loans don’t qualify if you refinanced or consolidated them with loans issued to someone else, like a parent or spouse.

7. Indian Health Service Loan Repayment Program

For federal and private student loans.

The Indian Health Service Loan Repayment Program offers up to $40,000 in student loan repayment for dentists who work for at least two years in communities that serve American Indian or Alaska Native populations. You may be able to extend your contract beyond the initial two years and continue receiving loan repayment benefits until your qualifying student loans are paid off.

Your loans don’t qualify if you refinanced or consolidated them with loans issued to someone else, like a parent or spouse. This loan repayment benefit is taxable, but the program pays a percentage of the federal taxes.

8. Military loan repayment programs

Ask your military branch whether both federal and private student loans are eligible.

The U.S. military offers student loan repayment benefits to doctors who serve. For example, the Navy Health Professions Loan Repayment Program offers up to $40,000 a year in loan repayment for up to three years. Contact your military branch for details about your options.

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