Many young dentists automatically flock to urban or suburban areas after graduation. After all, those areas can command higher salaries. But have you considered working in a more rural area?
A rural practice can offer several advantages beyond fresh air and open spaces. Namely, rural practices often cost less with lower overhead and higher collections – meaning you might be able to pay off your debts sooner and enjoy a better quality of life.
Pay less for a practice
Many dentists struggling with student loans think that purchasing a practice is a distant dream. However, a rural practice can cost significantly less, making it easier for an ambitious dentist to buy a practice earlier in their career. In urban areas, practices are typically valued at about 75 to 100% of collections. In rural areas, practices often sell for 50 to 66% of collections.
Since practice values are lower, loans are often smaller, too. That can translate to less overall debt, with a faster payback.
A rural practice can cost significantly less, making it easier for an ambitious dentist to buy a practice earlier in their career.
Many rural communities are anxious to keep a dentist in town rather than twenty miles away. If a town is in danger of losing its only dentist to retirement – or is currently underserved – the community may be willing to offer financial incentives to dentists who purchase or open a practice. These incentives can include help with loan repayment, low-interest loans, cash incentives, or other perks. (Check out the National Health Care Service Corps for information on federal programs, as well as your state for their own programs.)
Take home more of your collections
Urban practices usually rack up higher expenses. Real estate is pricier and staff expect higher salaries. A densely populated area with more dentists can require a significant marketing budget to attract patients. As a result, overhead in an urban practice can be as high as 78%.
By contrast, a rural practice may see overhead as low as 40%, with an average of 48 to 52%. Minimal competition requires minimal marketing. With significantly cheaper real estate, you may be more able to purchase your building, which can become an asset to the practice. Owning your own building also avoids the uncertainty of rising rents – or a building sale.
Enjoy a better quality of life
Small-town or rural life is very appealing to many people. The cost of living is significantly less than in a big city, which can mean a larger home or more money to travel. Many couples find that they require only a single income to live quite comfortably in a rural area, rather than enduring a more hectic double-income lifestyle. Commutes are usually shorter and less aggravating, with less stress and more time for family or activities.
Many couples find that they require only a single income to live quite comfortably in a rural area.
Small towns also give you the opportunity to really belong to a community. As the town’s dentist, you will get to know many residents, naturally opening the door for greater involvement. Your children may play sports with your patients’ kids or attend the same school. Small-town dentists often take leadership positions on councils or committees that have a real impact on a town. All these activities serve as natural marketing for your practice.
Practice your way
If you prefer a very hands-on approach where you handle every aspect of a case, a rural practice can be ideal. Rather than practicing with a narrow focus and relying on specialists for more complex cases, you can develop broader skills and act as a problem solver. This is not for everyone – some dentists would rather specialize in certain treatments or procedures – but it can be perfect for dentists who constantly seek new challenges.
Plus, small towns often rally around their dentists and want them to succeed. Patients may be more likely to trust your judgment because they have seen you for years and watched you tackle every dentistry problem.
Sell your rural practice by taking simple steps
Selling a rural practice is not all that different than selling an urban practice. Buyers want a digital office or one that can be easily upgraded to digital – especially for x-rays. They also want capacity for at least four operatories.
Simple updates to the décor can improve your practice’s value – and many of the basics come with minimal costs. Have a trusted friend stop by the practice after hours and give an honest assessment. Is the artwork dated? Does the furniture look worn? Could the flooring use an upgrade? Perhaps the waiting room could use a fresh coat of paint. The space may just need a thorough cleaning and decluttering – now is the time to toss those stacks of old dental journals or outdated equipment. (See 5 Easy Ways to Boost Your Practice’s Curb Appeal.)
Consider a more rural approach
When looking for your next job, consider looking beyond the urban practices and see how a rural practice might fit your needs. Unsure what might be right for you? The advisors at ADA Practice Transitions can help you think through your next steps. Start your profile today to find the right practice for your next step.