January 30, 2021

Finance Dos and Don'ts for Dental Students

Dorna, a dental student with a BBA in Finance, shares her tips for managing your money during dental school and beyond.

Cate Perino

Have you recently found yourself doing some quick math in the paper towel aisle to see what is the best deal? Or maybe you’ve realized how that service fee on Postmates really adds up? No matter how you’re trying to save money, 2020 has everyone thinking how to save a little more and spend a little wiser. 

Especially if you’re a dental student, times like this can make you wonder how you can make a difference in your already limited budget and savings. No fear, because Dorna is here to help. 

Meet Dorna. 

Dorna is a first year dental student who graduated with a BBA in Finance from the University of Oklahoma. She was born and raised in Iran and moved to Oklahoma 10 years ago. Dorna was drawn to dentistry because her father is a dentist in Iran and she always had an interest in science and loved working with people. She loves that in dentistry, you can make a large impact in someone’s life after just a few hours of working with them. Her goal for her future as a dentist is to finish her general degree, learn from a practice owner, and one day open her own practice and build a family-like community with her patients and staff. When Dorna isn’t working or studying, she loves to go on walks with her dogs and friends, hike, and go out for ice cream. That sounds like a great Saturday schedule to me. 

Dorna’s Dos and Don'ts 

Dorna understands the financial burden that a dental school education can bring, and she wants to use her knowledge in finance and dentistry to help others make the best decisions for their financial security. Here are some do and don’ts to manage your finances during dental school and beyond. 

1. Do heavily consider tuition when choosing a school.

Obviously the biggest expense of dental school is tuition, so Dorna says to always compare tuition carefully when choosing which school to attend. She said that especially in the dental industry, the degree you graduate with and your starting salary will not depend much on where you went to school. Take the time to consider what is most important to you in a school as far as location, academics, and setting, and what that is worth to you in terms of tuition cost. 

For example, USC School of Dentistry Tuition is around $350,000 for residents and non-residents, while non-resident tuition at the University of Maryland can be as low as almost $132,000. Considering in and out of state tuition is also a large factor that affects cost. 

On her Instagram (@dorna.the.dental.explorer), Dorna also explains how “although the average dentist salary in 2018, based on U.S. News & World Report, was $175,840, almost 40% of dental students in 2019 graduated with more than $300,000 worth of student loans. Do not forget that a new dental school graduate won’t be making that much and the median entry pay is closer to $119,000.”

2. Do learn the basics of finance for yourself. 

Dorna shared that her foundation in business and finance has better prepared her for her dental school education, managing her own finances, and planning for her own practice in the future. Whether you want to understand your student loans, plan to open your own practice, or simply want confidence and control in your spending and saving, it will be helpful to understand the basics of finance. Dorna believes that all students studying dentistry would benefit from basic finance courses in their curriculum. Whether it’s watching YouTube videos or taking online courses, educating yourself so that you can make financial decisions with confidence is great advice. 

There are great online resources, like this YouTube video, that explain the different types of student loans and also the difference that making a wise decision or an uninformed decision can have on your debt in the long term. Financial advising fees can also add up quickly, so using free online resources can save you even more money. 

3. Don’t let your personal expenses become a burden. 

One rule that Dorna always follows is to keep her personal expenses low. From living with roommates to save on rent, to not spending money on things that aren’t a good investment, keeping yourself on a budget can help lighten your financial burden in the long run. Establishing good spending habits in school is a great way to prepare yourself for managing your own practice one day. And yes, sometimes a nice dinner can qualify as a good investment as long as it’s a treat and not a tradition. 

Another tip is to break your budget into different categories such as needs, wants, and savings and debt repayment. This article breaks down this tip and gives percentage recommendations for each category. Apps such as Pocketguard and GoodBudget are simplified budgeting apps that can help you keep your budget and spending organized. Maybe even move these apps next to Instagram for an easy reminder to check in on your spending regularly.

4. Don’t take out loans irresponsibly.

Dorna told us that a common mistake dental students make is taking out too many student loans. Going back to Do #1, make sure that you choose the best school for you and your financial situation. Also, students need to consider that these loans will grow through their multiple year education, and you need to be responsible when planning ahead. 

Dorna explained that “as a DS1, if you take out $70,000 in loans, with an interest rate of 6.3%, that $70,000 in 10 years has accumulated $24,528 only in interest!” She says to not let numbers lose value, even when they get big, because everything will add up by the time you graduate. 

If this article is slowly talking you out of dental school, take a deep breath, and keep reading. There are many options to help lighten this financial burden, even if you have your heart set on a high tuition school. There are dental school debt forgiveness programs that can eliminate a portion of student debt in return for working in underserved communities, teaching, or serving in the military. The National Health Service Scholarship (NHSC) is a service program that covers tuition, books, and living expenses. Other options such as refinancing and income-based repayment can help lighten the burden of your loans over time as well. This article is another great resource that explains the different types of loan forgiveness and what to do if you don’t qualify for loan forgiveness. 

We don’t guarantee that if you follow these dos and don’ts you’ll be in Forbes 30 under 30, but they will help you be wiser and more confident to manage your finances. 2020 is an economically challenging year for many, and saving a little here and there can help you make it through this year a little more comfortably. And don’t forget to treat yourself to a nice dinner every once in a while too, even if it’s on your couch and you have to splurge on the delivery fee. 

Thank you, Dorna, for your great advice. We wish you the best of luck in your first year of dental school and beyond!

Follow Dorna on Instagram (@dorna.the.dental.explorer) for more advice and to stay up to date on her school and career journey. 

More Recent Blogs