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Student Loans Student Loan Repayment

Refinance Dental School Loans: A Guide

Refinancing dental school loans can make repaying what you borrowed to complete your education easier. Considering the average dental school graduate has $293,900 in student debt, it could make sense to refinance to lower your interest rates or make monthly payments more manageable. 

It’s possible to refinance dental school loans during residency or once you’ve begun your career. Comparing lenders and weighing the pros and cons of refinancing federal loans into one private loan can help you decide whether it’s right. 

In this comprehensive guide, you’ll find valuable information on top lenders for refinancing dental school loans and tips to help you decide when it might be the wisest move.

Top refinance lenders for dental school student loans

Choosing the best graduate loan refinancing option after dental school can depend on several factors. The most significant considerations include:

  • Maximum loan limits
  • Rate discounts
  • Repayment options
  • Loan terms
  • Credit score and income requirements
  • Additional features, such as referral programs or the option to skip a payment if needed

You may have a more significant amount of dental school debt to refinance or be concerned about whether you can defer payments during residency. Likewise, you may be interested in how your monthly payments look across different repayment terms. 

The lenders we’ve researched are among the best for dental school loan refinancing based on loan rates, repayment options, flexibility, and customer service. Reviewing them is a solid place to begin when choosing where to refinance your education debt. 

Click the lender’s name in the table to drop to our discussion of its dental school refinance loan.

LenderBest for
SoFiOnline lender
Credible Marketplace
EarnestSkip-a-payment benefit
ELFIPersonalized support
RISLAHardship protections
Nelnet BankTerm lengths

SoFi – Best online lender

LendEDU rating: 4.9 out of 5

  • Highest-rated online lender
  • Special features: $100 monthly payments during residency and personalized financial guidance

SoFi is a top-tier online lender, popular among medical and dental school graduates. It offers a specialized refinancing program for these professions. 

What’s notable is the flexibility you get during residency. You have an option to make $100 monthly payments. But these payments may not cover all the accrued interest, which is capitalized—or added to your loan balance—at the end of your residency.

SoFi allows you to prequalify without affecting your credit score. Plus, it adds a personal touch by offering access to a student debt coach. This could make all the difference when navigating the often confusing world of loan refinancing.


Credible – Best marketplace

LendEDU rating: 4.8 out of 5

  • Highest-rated marketplace
  • Special features: Compare rates from up to 9 lenders with one application, checking rates won’t affect credit score, and no cost to use the service

Credible sets itself apart as a high-quality marketplace for dental school loan refinancing. Its lender partners include RISLA, Nelnet Bank, Citizens Bank, and ELFI. 

It’s a one-stop shop for comparing multiple loan terms, interest rates, and other features without the hassle of visiting each lender’s site. Once you find the right fit, Credible directs you to the lender’s website to complete the application.

Checking rates on Credible won’t damage your credit score. Plus, Credible’s service is free, making it a budget-friendly choice for comparing before committing.


Earnest – Best skip-a-payment benefit

LendEDU rating: 4.8 out of 5

  • Only lender to allow for a skipped payment once per year
  • Special features: Biweekly automatic payments, rate match guarantee with a $100 bonus, and adjust your term to the day

With an impressive 4.8 LendEDU rating, Earnest offers a unique perk—the option to skip a payment once a year without penalty. This feature can help dental professionals who might encounter unexpected financial hurdles and need breathing room.

Alongside this skip-a-payment benefit, Earnest provides flexibility in other areas. For example, you can sign up for biweekly automatic payments to speed up your loan payoff. It lets you adjust your term to the day to dial in your perfect monthly payment.


ELFI – Best personalized support

LendEDU rating: 4.8 out of 5

  • Assigns applicants a Student Loan Advisor to assist throughout the process
  • Special features: $400 referral program, Parent PLUS loan transfer options, and prequalification without a credit check

ELFI earns its editorial rating of 4.8 mainly because of its commitment to personalized support. Each applicant is assigned a dedicated Student Loan Advisor. Borrowers appreciate this personalized touch, as reflected in high customer reviews that often highlight advisors’ valuable guidance.

The lender offers additional perks and options, including a $400 referral program and the option for parents to transfer Parent PLUS loans to their child. You can start the process by prequalifying without a credit check, taking the stress out of the initial step.


RISLA – Best hardship protections

LendEDU rating: 4.4 out of 5

  • Offers income-based repayment plan, military benefits, unfortunate incident benefits, and payment forbearance
  • Special features: Nationwide lending, nonprofit status, and in-school refinance options with deferred repayment

RISLA extends its lending services nationwide and offers various hardship protections. Its income-based repayment plan is a temporary benefit that calculates payments based on a percentage of the borrower’s income and includes a forgiveness program. 

If the payments don’t cover the interest, interest won’t capitalize during the plan’s term. In addition, RISLA provides benefits for military members and coverage for unfortunate incidents. 

As a nonprofit agency, RISLA offers college planning services, low-cost student loans, scholarships, and refinancing options. RISLA provides an in-school refinance option with deferred repayment for borrowers still in school.


Nelnet Bank – Best term lengths

LendEDU rating: 4.2 out of 5

  • Offers the most term lengths to choose from among individual lenders
  • Special features: Wide range of term lengths, high loan amounts for health professionals, multiple repayment assistance options

Nelnet Bank stands out for its flexibility in term length. With six options ranging from five to 25 years, you can choose a term that aligns with your financial goals and payment capacity.

The lender has more to offer, especially for health professionals, who can refinance up to  $500,000. Nelnet Bank also provides various repayment assistance options.

To read more about these lenders and our top picks for student loan refinancing, check out our list of the best student loan refinancing lenders.


Should you refinance or consolidate your dental school loans?

When examining your dental school debt, you’ll generally encounter two types of loans: private and federal. Understanding the differences between these loan types is crucial because they affect your options for consolidation or refinancing.

  • Consolidation: This option is available only for federal student loans. All your federal loans merge into one Direct Consolidation Loan when you consolidate. Your new interest rate? It’s a weighted average of the rates from the loans you consolidated.
  • Refinance: You can refinance federal and private loans. It involves taking out a new loan to pay off one or more of the loans you took out while in dental school, ideally with better terms—for example, a lower interest rate.

Consider a Direct Consolidation Loan if you have federal student loans. This maintains your eligibility for programs such as Public Service Loan Forgiveness and income-based repayment plans. When you refinance a federal loan into a private one, you lose access to those federal benefits.

Refinancing can offer notable advantages for those with private student loans. You can hunt for lower interest rates, ease your monthly payment burden, and streamline multiple payments into a single manageable one.


Tip

Don’t know whether you have federal or private student loans? Check the federal StudentAid website. When you log in, all the loans listed are federal. If you don’t see your loan listed, it’s private.


Our expert weighs in: Pros and cons of refinancing

Andrew Steger

CFP®

The pros of refinancing could be lower interest rates, simplified repayment, flexible loan terms, and the possible release of a cosigner. The cons include the loss of federal benefits, variable rates, credit qualifications, and the loss of loan forgiveness programs. Refinancing medical debt is complex, so I recommend consulting a student loan expert or financial planner to help with your unique situation. 

How to refinance your dental school loans

If you’ve decided refinancing dental school loans makes sense, it helps to know what to expect. Here’s a closer look at how to refinance your loans in six steps. 

  1. Assess your needs. Start by taking an inventory of your loans, including each lender or loan servicer’s name, the account number, amount, interest rate, and monthly payment. That can help you determine which loans you want to refinance and how much you’ll need to borrow. 
  2. Estimate monthly payments. Once you know how much you want to borrow, you can estimate your monthly payment using different loan terms. You can do that with an online student loan refinance calculator. This step can help you further narrow down your needs. 
  3. Compare lenders. Specifically, consider each lender’s minimum and maximum loan amounts, rates, terms, fees, and qualification requirements. It’s helpful to get at least three quotes from lenders that match your needs to know how much you might pay.
  4. Submit a loan application. Complete the loan application if you get a quote you’re happy with. Tell the lender how much you want to refinance and what company holds each loan. The lender will likely ask for information about your income, debt, employment history, and monthly expenses and request your permission to complete a hard credit check.
  5. Wait for approval. Once the lender approves your loan, it will let you know the final terms, including the repayment term, monthly payment, and interest rate. You should review the loan agreement before signing off.
  6. Pay off your old loans. Your lender should handle this step by using the loan proceeds to pay off your balances. However, until you’ve verified that your old loans are paid in full, you’ll need to keep up with the monthly payments. Otherwise, you could get hit with a late payment penalty, and your credit score might fall. 

Dive deeper with our refinancing student loans article to get all the details.

“Do your homework—not all private lenders are created equally. Not spending time researching can be expensive in terms of interest costs or the loss of a helpful benefit.”

Andrew Steger

CFP®

Should you refinance during dental residency?

Choosing the right time to refinance your dental school loans is crucial. Many lenders will allow you to refinance during or after residency. Considering your financial and personal circumstances, as well as your needs, can help you decide when to move ahead with refinancing. 

If you’re still in your residency period, the most important factors to weigh include your current income and the interest rate environment. Dental residency programs may offer a stipend, but not always. That can affect your ability to make loan payments. Whether you have federal or private dental school loans is also a consideration. 

Consider refinancing during residency if:

  • Rates have dropped. If private student loan rates drop while you’re in residency, refinancing could help you save on interest if you can secure a lower rate and a lower payment. You’ll generally need excellent credit to qualify for the best refinance rates. 
  • You need lower payments. Refinancing during residency could allow you to benefit from lower payments. SoFi, for instance, can put your payments at just $100 per month during residency. Refinancing could make payments more affordable if your only salary during this time is a small stipend or money from a part-time job. 
  • You only have private loans. Refinancing federal student loans can cost you numerous benefits, as mentioned. But if you’ve only taken out private loans to pay for dental school, you might refinance as a resident to lower your payments, reduce your rate, or switch rate types (e.g., variable or fixed). 

Refinancing after residency can depend on the factors we mentioned above. Your long-term career plans can also affect your decision if you’re contemplating a job in public service. 

Consider refinancing after residency if:

  • Your career plans aren’t firm. You may want to hold off on refinancing federal dental school loans if you’re considering Public Service Loan Forgiveness. But you could move ahead with refinancing private loans if it would yield interest savings. 
  • Your income rises substantially. Earning a higher income after residency may make it easier to qualify for dental school loan refinancing. Lower rates can translate to lower payments, putting more money back in your budget to build emergency savings or invest for retirement. 
  • Your credit has improved. Good credit can help you get the best dental school loan refinancing terms. A much broader range of refinancing options may be available if you entered residency with a lower credit score but have worked to increase it. 

We recommend shopping for the best refinancing options if you’ve completed your residency.

“It’s important to remember that refinancing during residency could preclude you from taking advantage of Public Service Loan Forgiveness and other federal benefits.”

Andrew Steger

CFP®

Alternatives to refinancing dental school loans

If refinancing doesn’t seem like the best fit, consider these alternatives:

Income-driven repayment plans

Income-driven repayment plans tie your monthly payments to your income, making repayments more manageable based on your earnings. They’re primarily for federal loans, so they may not be an option if you have private loans.

Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF)

If you work in public service, including nonprofit or government organizations, PSLF offers loan forgiveness after you make 120 qualifying payments.

Consolidation

A Direct Consolidation Loan lets you merge multiple federal student loans into one, so you can simplify repayment and retain federal benefits.

Loan repayment assistance programs

Beyond the federal options, other loan repayment programs cater to dentists and healthcare professionals:

FAQ

Can I refinance my dental school loans during residency?

Yes, some lenders allow you to refinance during residency, offering low monthly payments until you complete your training.

Is it better to refinance after residency?

It depends on your financial situation and goals. After residency, you may qualify for lower interest rates, but you also lose federal benefits if you refinance federal loans.

What happens to my federal benefits if I refinance?

Refinancing federal loans with a private lender means losing federal benefits, such as Public Service Loan Forgiveness and income-driven repayment plans.

Can I refinance just my high-interest loans?

Absolutely. You can refinance only the loans with high interest rates, allowing you to save money where it counts.

Do I need a cosigner to refinance my dental school loans?

Not necessarily. A cosigner can help you get a lower interest rate, but many lenders offer options for individuals based on their creditworthiness.

How do I know whether I’m eligible for refinancing?

Eligibility varies by lender. Generally, you’ll need a strong credit score, a stable income, and a history of on-time loan payments.