of millennials and
Shari C. Kohn, DDS
AS A PRACTICING PEDIATRIC DENTIST, an educator for over 20 years, and a
former student deep in debt, I have seen firsthand the stress that the cost of
dental education and specialty training is putting on our students, graduates,
and young pediatric dentists. As the chair of the American Academy of Pediatric
Dentistry (AAPD) Council on Membership and Membership Services (CMMS),
part of my job is to see that our current benefits are relevant and timely.
Recently, I served on the AAPD Millennial Task Force,
which was charged with evaluating the needs of students
and graduates and researching issues facing newer
practitioners. Committee representatives included private
practitioners, educators, current graduates, recent
graduates, and current residents. We reviewed the literature
and conducted surveys of members in training and
members who had graduated within the last 10 years.
The most common and urgent message we received
from millennials was about student debt: Do I have to
work for someone else? Can I buy or open my own
practice? Can I afford to get married, have children, and
live the lifestyle I desire? Or is debt going to prevent me
from achieving my goals?
According to the American Dental Education Association, the average debt of the dental school class of 2016
is $261,149.1 Indeed, over 30% of these students graduated
with debt in excess of $300,000.1 Those who pursue resi-dencies and additional education incur even more debt.
Dentistry is held in high regard as a profession, but the
costs are staggering. In February 2017, Bloomberg reported
that 39% of millennials would rather tell a potential partner
about some of their most personal information than discuss their debt. 2 While it may be psychologically difficult,
these costs should be considered as investments for the
future, rather than as debts.
Statistics show that a dental education is a dependable
investment. According to Doctorly.org, “Most dentists are
paid enough to eliminate loan debt in less than 14 years.” 3
For example, Bankrate.com ranked dentistry at No. 11 in its
list of the 20 best jobs for return on educational investment. 4
Many dentists pay off their debt more quickly than other
professionals. According to the New England Journal of Medicine, the ratio of debt to income is 63% better for dentists
than it is for veterinarians. 5 In January of 2017, dentistry was
ranked as the No. 1 profession and as the No. 1 health-care
job in U.S. News & World Report’s “ 100 Best Jobs” list. 6