Why Is Dental School So Expensive

Dental schools are renowned for their rigorous admission process and exorbitant costs. While the price may seem daunting, there are several reasons why dental schools are worth the investment. In this article, we will explore the factors that contribute to the expense of dental schools and shed light on the benefits they offer.

The Distinction between Good and Bad Dental Schools

When it comes to dental schools, there isn’t a strict classification of good or bad schools. However, some institutions offer superior programs and courses compared to others. These “better schools” provide students with extensive patient examinations, hands-on lab work, and, consequently, charge higher tuition fees. While prestigious schools like Harvard School of Dental Medicine or New York University College of Dentistry come with hefty student debts, it is important to note that all dental schools provide the same education, though with varying methodologies.

Lucrative Salaries of Dentists

One of the primary justifications for the high cost of dental schools is the salary potential for dentists. According to Forbes, dentists can earn an average of $264,440 in Delaware, while the lowest average salary is around $154,230 in Kentucky. These figures demonstrate that the dental profession offers above-average salaries, making the financial investment in dental school worthwhile in the long run.

Reasons Behind the High Cost of Dental School

Now, let’s delve into the main reasons why dental schools are expensive.

1. High Demand and Limited Seats

Dentistry is a highly sought-after profession, with a low unemployment rate and promising career prospects. Unfortunately, there are not enough seats in dental schools to accommodate all the applicants. According to the U.S. News and World Report, only 55.3% of applicants were admitted to one of the 66 accredited dental schools in the United States during the 2018-2019 academic year. Moreover, dental schools have stringent requirements, such as a high GPA, specific course prerequisites, and numerous semester hours. Given the overwhelming number of applicants, the cost of dental school reflects the competitiveness and exclusivity of the field.

2. Dentistry: A Fulfilling and Lucrative Profession

Dentistry ranks among the top career paths due to its positive impact on people’s lives, attractive salaries, and the ease of finding employment. According to the U.S. News report, dentistry is the 9th best job in America in 2023, with a high overall satisfaction score and an impressively low unemployment rate of 0.2%. Despite the expensive nature of dental schools, the future benefits outweigh the costs, making it an enticing option for aspiring dentists.

3. Acquisition of Personal Equipment

Another factor contributing to the expense of dental schools is the requirement for students to purchase their own dental equipment. Although this additional cost may seem burdensome, it is essential for the hands-on training and practical experience that dental students receive. For instance, at the New York University College of Dentistry, the annual cost of instruments amounts to $6,304, totaling $25,216 over the four-year program.

4. Connection between Debt and Future Salary

In 2019, the average debt accrued by dental school graduates was $292,159, a significant increase compared to $55,000 in 1990. Furthermore, 64% of graduates had debts exceeding $200,000, as reported by the American Dental Association. However, it is crucial to consider the correlation between a dentist’s salary and the cost of dental school. With higher earning potential, dentists are able to repay their debts more quickly, thus justifying the initial investment.

5. High Quality of Life for Dentists

Lastly, dental schools are expensive because the profession offers a high quality of life. Although further research is necessary, a report from the National Institutes of Health indicates that dentists generally experience a favorable quality of life. Despite the rigorous academic journey and financial commitment, the rewarding career that follows graduation justifies the expense.

The Most Expensive Dental School

Among the prestigious dental schools in America and Canada, New York University College of Dentistry stands out as the most expensive. In addition to the challenging admission requirements, the total cost for a four-year dental program at NYU is close to $100,000 per year, excluding additional expenses like room and board. Taking into account all costs, the estimated total for four years reaches a staggering $559,077. Despite the financial burden, earning a dental degree from NYU guarantees access to one of the world’s top dental schools and a promising future.

Dental School vs. Medical School Costs

Comparatively, dental schools tend to be more expensive than medical schools. According to Shemmassian Academic Consulting, the average cost of medical school in the 2019-2020 academic year ranged from $37,556 for in-state public schools to $62,194 for out-of-state public schools. Private medical schools averaged $60,665 for in-state students and $62,111 for out-of-state students. In contrast, the average cost of attending an American dental school for four years was $251,233 for residents and $321,575 for non-residents. Despite the significant expenses associated with both dental and medical education, dental schools generally come with a higher price tag.


Although dental schools are undeniably expensive, the long-term benefits justify the investment. The combination of high demand for dentists, lucrative salaries, and the fulfillment of helping others make dental school a worthwhile endeavor. So, if you’re passionate about pursuing a career in dentistry, the costs associated with dental school are ultimately a step towards a bright and rewarding future.

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