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Letters: Debt and career choices

September 15, 2014 The first page of the Aug. 18 ADA News has a somewhat misleading ADA infographic regarding dental student loan debt.

The graphic states 68 percent is the "Percentage of dental school seniors graduating in 2011 who said that educational debt influenced their decision to go into private practice rather than public service, teaching, research or administration."
This implies that students perceive they have a better opportunity to repay their debt by pursuing private practice dentistry. However, with the many loan repayment opportunities available, public service dentistry is a very practical alternative for those 68 percent of dental students who are making career decisions in light of their enormous debt load.  

Just to name a few, Indian Health Service and National Health Service Corps offer both steady employment and generous loan repayment to dentists, a critical combination for dentists managing enormous debt loads. For example, a new dentist graduating with the average debt of $221,000 could have their entire student loan debt paid off in approximately 11 years while serving in the Indian Health Service Loan Repayment Program.

Dental students would be better served by promoting these loan repayment public service opportunities rather than depicting a misleading infographic showing the majority of students influenced by debt when choosing to pursue private practice dentistry.

John Linhart, D.M.D.
Teec Nos Pos, Arizona