Comparing Dental School Prices & Expenses in 2020

Written by: Kristyn Pilgrim
Updated: 1/24/20

Dentistry is one of the most popular professions in the United States in 2020. Dentists have job security, financial stability, and are widely needed. There are several specialty fields in dentistry, so you can focus on fascinating medical areas beyond basic dental care.

The American Dental Association (ADA) reported that 25,381 students enrolled in predoctoral dental education programs for the 2018-19 academic year. This was higher than the previous year’s attendance, which was 25,010 students.

The average annual cost of the first year of dental school ranges from $53,000 to $70,000 for students attending private or out-of-state dental schools. Public schools can cost close to $40,000 per year for less-expensive options, while more well-known private schools might cost as much as $72,300 annually.

Naturally, you want the best education you can get, so looking at the top-rated dental schools makes sense. However, cost can play a big factor in where you decide to apply.

While the cost of a dental school can reflect the quality of education, it is not the only factor; you can get a great education without paying a lot of money. You can also find scholarships, grants, and student loans to help. 

Leading Dental Schools in 2020 and Their Costs

Out of the top 50 dental schools in the world in 2020, the United States is home to 13 of these leading institutions, which ranked from No. 5 to No. 47. These are the leading dental schools:

  1. University of Michigan: This school has led the list of American institutions for the third year in a row as the best dental school in the U.S. and ranks fifth in the world for 2020. This dental school is well-known for demanding programs and renowned, innovative faculty. University of Michigan’s School of Dentistry is also one of the oldest in the country, founded in 1875.

    As a state school, Michigan residents get discounted in-state tuition. The first year’s estimated tuition for in-state residents is $35,691; for nonresidents, tuition alone is about $53,540. Add in books, lab fees, instruments, and living costs, first-year costs come to an estimated $72,307 for in-state residents and $$90,156 for non-residents.
  2. Harvard University: With a dental school ranking seventh in 2020, Harvard also has a perfect score for employer reputation.

    Of course, as a private Ivy League school, Harvard’s tuition is notoriously steep. There is no in-state option, and tuition alone is $63,400 per year. After considering all other student-related costs, including housing, the first year of dental school can cost over $97,000.
  3. University of Washington: As the third-best dental school in the country, the University of Washington is known for its focus on research in dentistry. The school also provides a Summer Research Fellowship (SURF) program and similar opportunities for ongoing education.

    Estimated first-year costs – including tuition, books, fees, training equipment, housing, transportation, and personal expenses –  are $91,404 for in-state residents and nearly $121,000 for non-residents. As a state school, there are also great opportunities for financial aid, including scholarships and low-interest student loans.
  4. University of California, San Francisco (UCSF): For in-state students, the tuition cost of attending UCSF is quite low. Total tuition is around $11,400 for the first year, dropping to just $3,814 for the following three years. However, after fees and expenses, first-year in-state students will spend an estimated $50,420, while first-year out-of-state students will spend an estimated $62,665.

    On top of education expenses, San Francisco is one of the most expensive cities in the U.S. If you choose to live off campus, the amount of money you need from scholarships and loans goes up exponentially.
  5. University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill: The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill’s School of Dentistry is the first dental school in North Carolina, and among the best in the country. As a state school, North Carolina residents get lower annual tuition, encouraging them to continue living and working in the state after graduation.

    For residents of North Carolina, first-year costs amount to nearly $20,000, including fees, while non-residents are looking at an estimated $33,000. Given that UNC-CH’s School of Dentistry offers numerous dental degrees, tuition and fees can vary. Students should also keep in mind, these figures don’t include housing, transportation, and other personal expenses.
  6. New York University (NYU): Educating nearly 10% of the nation’s dentists, New York University’s College of Dentistry ranks sixth in the U.S. and 16th worldwide. First-year tuition costs $82,008, and with added fees, instruments, and a waivable Comprehensive Health Insurance, total educational expenses for the first year of dental school cost an estimated $96,000.

    These figures are in reference to the standard four-year DDS degree, but NYU Dentistry also offers a two-year advanced standing program. While tuition, fees, and health insurance prices remain the same, students would cut the overall costs in half by completing their degree in two years.
  7. University of Pennsylvania: One of the more expensive schools on the list, the University of Pennsylvania, is widely renowned for its high-quality graduates. As a state school, you are more likely to have state and federal scholarships and student loans at your disposal, especially if you have need-based reasons for financial help.

    Tuition for first-year students is $76,090. After fees and related expenses, students will spend an estimated $123,521 for one year at the school.
  8. University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA): Renowned for its high-quality education in the arts, sciences, and medicine, UCLA is one of the most famous schools in the UC system, and its School of Dentistry ranks high among American dental schools.

    Base university tuition is around $18,900 for the first year; however, there are several fees associated with attending the school that increases the overall cost. For example, the Professional Degree Supplemental Tuition (PDST), which is a mandatory fee, is $27,720 for residents, while books, supplies, and instruments will add an estimated $19,623. The overall cost of the first year at the UCLA School of Dentistry can be about $90,000.
  9. Columbia University: This private Ivy League university offers prospective students rigorous academics and extensive opportunities for mentorship, leadership, exploration, and service. Ranking ninth in the U.S. and 32nd worldwide, tuition and fees for the first-year of Columbia University’s College of Dental Medicine will cost students a total of about $94,000.

    On top of standard tuition and fees, educational expenses (books, supplies, exams, and dental loupes) and living expenses (housing, food, and miscellaneous personal expenses) bring the total cost of attendance for just the first year to nearly $120,000.
  10. University of Minnesota: With a strong research program in basic sciences, clinical sciences, social and behavioral science, and public health, the University of Minnesota School of Dentistry ranks tenth in the U.S. and is tied with Columbia for No. 32 in the world.

    First-year resident students will pay $18,679 in tuition and over $62,000 after fees, books, and living expenses. Tuition for non-residents nearly twice as much, costing $34,604 per year. After fees, books, and living expenses, non-residents students can expect to pay over $94,000 for their first year.
  11. University of Southern California: The Ostrow School of Dentistry at the University of Southern California is renowned for both its diverse research endeavors and community outreach efforts. Ranking 11th in the U.S. and 36th worldwide, tuition for the first year will run students about $98,000. After fees, equipment, and personal expenses, the estimated cost of attendance increases to nearly $150,000.

    While the cost is among the highest on the list, tuition and mandatory fees are the same for residents and non-residents. Indirect costs like housing, transportation, and personal expenses will vary.
  12. University of Buffalo SUNY: The University of Buffalo SUNY’s School of Dental Medicine was the first to offer an Oral Biology PhD program in the U.S. With various other degrees available, the school ranks 12th in the nation and 40th in the world. First-year resident students in the DDS program will face a tuition cost of nearly $36,000, while non-residents will pay just under $63,000.

    After other educational expenses and living expenses, residents can expect to pay $84,551 for their first year, while non-residents can expect to pay $11,671.
  13. Boston University: The last U.S. school in the global top 50, Boston University’s Henry M. Goldman School of Dental Medicine is 13th in the nation. The renowned institution offers dental students hands-on clinical experiences and unique 10-week externships.

    The first year of the predoctoral program at BU’s School of Dental Medicine will cost students $80,000 in tuition. Adding in fees, the total comes to $90,166 for the first year. These figures only include educational expenses — living and personal expenses will cause the overall cost of attendance to increase.

Financial Help for Attending Dental School in 2020

With state and private dental schools having close to the same costs, it can be tough to decide which school you want to attend. It is worth learning more about your in-state dental school options, as being a resident can save you thousands of dollars at a state school.

You should also look into scholarships and grants, along with federal student loans, to help you pay for your dental education.

Start by filling out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). This form will be sent to all the schools you apply to. Once you are accepted to a program, the school will send you information on all available financing options. Offerings vary greatly by school, so you may find that a private dental school can cost less out-of-pocket than a public option.