Student Loan Spotlight: How Public Service Loan Forgiveness helps dentists support underserved communities

Ms. Walsh-Epstein

Dentists play a vital role in their communities, addressing dental needs and helping to promote overall well-being. However, because the financial journey to becoming a dentist has become increasingly expensive, many dentists must factor their ability to pay down student loan debt into decisions about where to live and work and which communities they can serve.

Fortunately, through the federal government’s Public Service Loan Forgiveness program, dentists employed by qualifying entities can get financial relief from student loans in the form of reduced monthly payment amounts and forgiveness on their remaining balance after making qualifying payments.

To qualify for PSLF, a dentist must be:

• Employed by a U.S. federal, state, local or tribal government or not-for-profit organization (federal service includes U.S. military service).
• Work full time for that agency or organization.
• Have Direct Loans (or consolidate other federal student loans into a Direct Loan).
• Repay loans under an income-driven repayment plan.
• Make 120 qualifying payments.

For full program requirements, visit the PSLF page at

Read on to learn more about how student loan relief through PSLF can help dentists serve the communities that need them most.

How dentists can take advantage of PSLF

For many dentists working in public health, the PSLF program can be a key part of their student loan debt management strategy. Borrowers pursuing PSLF enroll in an income-driven repayment plan to keep their monthly student loan payments low. Income-driven repayment plans calculate a monthly student loan payment amount based on discretionary income and family size.

At the end of the repayment period, borrowers can have their remaining federal student loan debt forgiven. Dentists working for several different types of employers, including Veterans Affairs hospitals, dental schools and many not-for-profit organizations, could qualify for PSLF.

Find the eligible employer search tool at

Repayment options during training

The PSLF program might also be relevant for dentists who undergo a long residency. Most residencies and fellowships qualify as PSLF-eligible positions.

For example, a dentist who chooses an oral and maxillofacial surgery specialty could be in the program for up to six years. Then, with only four years to go after residency, they could continue with a job in public service that meets the program requirements for loan forgiveness through PSLF. The only thing to note is that a dentist may not be able to take advantage of in-school deferment during residency, and therefore, payments would be due. However, with an income-driven repayment plan, the monthly payment is based on income, which is relatively low during residency.

To understand how to qualify for PSLF and other federal repayment programs, ADA members can schedule a free 30-minute consultation with a Laurel Road GradFin student loan specialist. Laurel Road, an online lender and brand of KeyBank N.A., has worked with ADA members since 2015. GradFin is a financial services company that, like Laurel Road, is a brand of KeyBank N.A.

Through a one-on-one consultation, the GradFin student loan specialist will analyze a member’s student loan history, review repayment and forgiveness options, and help each member create a personalized plan.

For more information about the student loan refinancing program or Laurel Road’s other endorsed mortgage lending programs for ADA members, visit

Ms. Walsh-Epstein has been with Laurel Road since 2022. She leads marketing efforts and manages a team of acquisition, product and growth marketing experts dedicated to the success of Laurel Road’s student loan refinancing and Laurel Road for Doctors.

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