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November JADA looks at how student debt affects career decisions

November 02, 2015
High education debt levels affected some career decisions for dentists who graduated dental school between 1996 and 2011, according to research published in the November issue of The Journal of the American Dental Association.

Dentists who graduated with higher initial debt were less likely to specialize and were more likely to enter private practice over other primary occupations, which usually have lower salaries, researchers found.

“Contrary to what we hear a lot from the field, the research found no relationship between educational debt levels and the likelihood of owning a practice,” said article co-author Marko Vujicic, Ph.D., chief economist and vice president of the ADA Health Policy Institute. “More significantly, in my view, we found that factors such as gender, race and whether your parent is a dentist had much more significant impact on career choices than debt.”

Loan debt can particularly affect graduates of professional schools, according to the research, which found that the education debt balances among students graduating in 2011 from dental, medical, and law schools were $203,000, $162,000 and $125,000, respectively.

Policy makers should consider the article “as compelling evidence on what factors promote dentist participation in Medicaid, specialization and choice of practice setting. It is of interest to dentists as well for the same reasons,” Dr. Vujicic said. “There is a lot of concern that debt limits career choices, and we needed to test that theory with solid research. The ADA House of Delegates requested several comprehensive studies on the topic, this paper is one of the products of this multiyear initiative.”

The full article is online.

In September, the ADA announced an exclusive loan refinance offer that allows ADA dentists an opportunity to refinance existing federal and private student loans at a lower rate.  For more information, visit

The November issue of JADA also includes a study addressing whether protraction of the mandibular molars can be an alternate treatment to conventional prosthetic treatment; a comparison of the cost effectiveness of antibiotic prophylaxis regimens of patients with prosthetic hip joints; and a critical summary of a systematic review investigating whether preoperative analgesics provide additional pain relief to pediatric patients having dental procedures without general anesthesia.
In addition to reading JADA online and in print, readers can access it from their phone or tablet using the JADA app, which is available for all iOS and Android devices through the App Store and Google Play.