Dentistry in Rural Areas: Higher Esteem and Higher Profit Margins

It’s a common idea: put in your time at dental school and in a residency, then settle into a practice in the big city where you can really enjoy the proceeds from your hard work. Urban living has a lot to recommend it–the cultural opportunities like symphonies and art museums; great restaurants and an exciting nightlife; trendy shopping boutiques and hip loft apartments. But there can be some disadvantages, especially when compared with dentistry in rural areas.

Urban living, for all of its excitement, can be taxing both psychologically and financially. Cities are crowded. The crowds and lack of open or green space can make some feel claustrophobic. The competition for living and work space drives up costs. And when it comes to a dental practice, there is a lot of competition for patients. If other dentists are open early and late on weekdays, or take patients on the weekend, then you might feel pressure to do the same.

Why it’s Smart to Consider Buying a Dental Practice in a Rural Area

On the one hand, as said above, city living can be exciting, but it’s not called the rat race for nothing. If you asked your dental school classmates, probably 9 out of 10 would say that they wanted to practice within 30 minutes of a major city. By contrast, rural dentistry doesn’t have nearly that level of competition. The rural areas are often underserved, which means you have a ready patient base without much, if any, competition. This translates into several benefits that can greatly improve quality of life.

  • Less stress and more free time. Patients in rural areas tend to not miss appointments. There is less pressure to participate in discount insurance programs. If a patient declines a treatment option because of a financial concern, you can offer a third-party financing option. Also, there is less expectation of evening and weekend hours, meaning you can be home for dinner every night and your weekends are your own.
  • High profit margins. Real estate tends to be cheaper, which lowers both your living costs and operating costs. Wages are lower. Overhead overall tends to average out at 50% in rural areas, while pricing is consistent with urban areas. Do the math.
  • Respect in the community. The town dentist is a valued member of the community performing an essential function. The community is more likely to treat you as a person occupying a position of respect.
  • Student loan repayment. New dentists who practice in underserved areas may qualify for student loan repayment programs that reduce the amount you have to repay. It may require some participation in Medicaid programs. More information can be found through the ADA.

You may be concerned whether you can retain existing patients if you are buying a practice in a rural area. However, many small towns only have one dentist. This means the practice will have a built-in patient base, without any local competition. In rural areas, patients are less likely to drive 45 minutes out of their way to see a dentist in the big city.

Plus, living in a rural area doesn’t mean you don’t get to enjoy what a larger city can offer. What you save in overhead and living expenses can be turned into weekend getaways and vacations. A rural dentist can enjoy the quiet life while indulging in city life when they choose.

Associates Should Also Consider Dentistry in Rural Areas

If you’re not yet ready to buy a practice but are more interested in an associateship, dentistry in rural areas can be a great option. Many of the benefits listed above also apply to associates. Lower stress levels and shorter hours means more time for you to enjoy your hobbies and free time. If your compensation is based on collections, in a rural area your compensation can go further.

When you begin your career in a rural area, especially if you have an eye toward eventually buying into or acquiring the practice, you can create lifelong community ties. Rural areas and smaller towns have less anonymity, meaning that the services you provide are not simply transactional, but can be more meaningful on a personal level. You’ll treat the school teachers, the civic leaders, your children’s friends and parents. A rural dentist can be embedded into the fabric of their community in a way that’s not possible in the city. It may ultimately become one of the most personally fulfilling aspects of your professional life.

Selling a Rural Dentistry Practice

If you are one of the dentists who practice dentistry in rural areas or small towns and are thinking about transitioning your practice for retirement, you have a lot to offer potential buyers. But also take time to consider updating your office equipment, furniture, and decor. Has your practice gone digital or is it still paper and filing cabinets? Younger dentists looking to buy an established practice often want the latest technology and service options already implemented into the running of the business. No doubt your office runs well, but be aware that expectations have changed about how offices operate and information is managed.

At ddsmatch Southwest, we offer a free Practice Transition Assessment where we can advise you how to get the most value out of your practice. We’ll look closely at your practice, being mindful of the community you serve, and offer advice based on the hundreds of transitions we’ve facilitated across the country. We want to help you get the most for your practice and find the buyer best suited to match.

If you are considering transitioning your practice within the next five years, give us a call to arrange your free assessment. Find out what ddsmatch Southwest can do for you today.