By Paul Rang, DMD, JD
There's no doubt that a city or town near you has been listed among the "best places to live" or the "best places to retire." While such recognition may seem ominous due to the inevitable growth and changes it will cause, the ratings are outstanding news for dental practices in the nearby communities. Why? Generally, the individuals, families, and retirees who are attracted to an area by the ratings become the patients who are the lifeblood of dental practices.
While the rankings may also attract families into the region, which will benefit pediatric and orthodontic practices, the aging patients who will visit the general practices are more likely to be interested in higher value dental procedures, and they're more likely to pay to get what they want. It's no secret that insurance plans rarely pay much for extensive reconstructive or cosmetic procedures, but what makes these retirees different is that they step into retirement with style. Their desire to move to one of the "best places to retire" is an indicator of that. Many have been financially conservative, and upon retiring, they want the lifestyle, the fun, and, when it comes to dentistry, the magazine- or movie-perfect smile. The bottom line: they have the disposable income, and their smiles are a priority.
When deciding where to practice, many younger dentists choose neighborhoods with demographics similar to their own, but these areas may prove to make growing a profitable and successful dental practice difficult. Why? Young professionals and new families generally have fewer dental needs and are less likely to have disposable income than retirees.
If you're trying to figure out where the "best places to practice" might be, there are a few things you'll need to think about. First, consider areas with demographics that may not be exactly like yours. Look for an area with a population that will provide for you and your practice. You'll also need to consider the trade-offs and the potential long-term benefits of living in the area you desire while working elsewhere. A commute that is slightly longer is only a small price to pay for a successful, rewarding, and profitable career.
Make sure to check out small, rural communities, which often offer many advantages over big cities. In rural areas, initial facility costs and practice overhead are usually much lower, and the staff is often more stable. For example, dental assisting is more likely to be considered a career, rather than a stepping-stone to another opportunity. These communities are also advantageous because there are fewer large corporations and/or manufacturers that provide reduced-fee dental insurance to their employees.
Perhaps the greatest advantage to practicing in these communities, though, is the patients themselves. Aging patients have respect for your time; they are more likely to arrive early, and they are less likely to cancel. Aging patients also tend to be available for appointments during low-demand office hours, and they often pay their bills promptly. The value that they place on relationships makes them more likely to foster relationships with you and your staff. Investing your time in them will encourage them to accept the treatment that you recommend, and, in some cases, it will even lead them to request additional treatment. Even more importantly, if you provide a personalized environment, they will become advocates for your practice. Although the importance of web presence and other forms of modern marketing cannot be overstated, this type of "internal marketing" can accelerate the growth of your practice and help to ensure success with minimal costs.
The advantages of practicing in one of these communities are manifold and should be considered seriously. If you not only "think outside the box" but also consider practicing outside the box, you can achieve the practice - and all of the rewards - that you imagined when you were in dental school.
Paul D. Rang, DMD, JD, is a transition specialist with ADS Florida. Dr. Rang has consulted with, appraised, and transitioned dental practices locally and nationally. He has been a featured presenter at dental association meetings in Florida and nationally. You may reach him by e-mail at [email protected] or contact him by phone at (888) 419-5590, ext. 239. You can find out more about ADS at www.ADStransitions.com and ADS Florida at www.ADSflorida.com.