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Don’t Settle: Identify the Ideal Practice for You

There’s no such thing as a typical dental practice. They can range from homey rural offices to busy urban spaces, with everything in between.

Some factors are no-brainers: location, schedule, and compensation. Other factors are a bit less tangible but worth your consideration. In each case, there’s no right answer. Rather, think about what sounds most appealing and where you can be most successful.

1. Relationship-driven or volume-driven?

Some dentists build a practice on patient relationships, while others focus on driving volume. This approach is reflected in the practice’s policies and patient expectations.

For example, a practice built around patient relationships may have processes that ensure no one ever waits more than 5 minutes beyond their appointment time. Dentists in such practices tend to spend more time with each patient and personally nurture each relationship rather than delegating this function to auxiliaries. These practices may be entirely fee for service and often charge in the top 1%.

By contrast, a practice built on volume may run multiple treatment rooms simultaneously by delegating as much as possible to auxiliaries. In this model, staff members are the primary relationship builders while the doctor works on doing dentistry as efficiently as possible. These practices tend to accept insurance and make up for lower fees through increased volume.

Both practice styles can be professionally and financially rewarding, but they are generally not compatible. A dentist who prefers a more relationship-focused approach will probably not be satisfied in a practice built on volume, and vice versa.

2. Community or anonymity?

Some dentists like being enmeshed in their communities. They prefer a “small-town” feel where they run into their patients at the grocery store or their kids attend school with patients’ children. They may sponsor a youth sports team or participate in community fundraisers. They might take an active role in their town by joining a committee or the PTA – and they often recruit patients through these activities.

Alternatively, some dentists prefer anonymity. They want to live and work in two different towns and would prefer not to run into patients during their off hours.

3. Modern or traditional?

Do you like using brand new equipment and trying out the very latest procedures, or would you rather rely on the tried and true? Are you at the cutting edge, eager to try new techniques?

Are you energized by a sleek new office or do you feel at home in a more “lived in” space? Would an antique dental cabinet be out of place in your ideal office?

How would you like to dress for work – scrubs, business casual, or more formal?

4. Urban or rural?

A practice’s location makes a big difference in both how you practice and how you live.

A rural practice typically has lower overhead and less competition. Fewer specialists serve rural areas, which can be ideal for dentists who prefer doing all types of procedures. Rural dentists are generally more involved in their communities, where professionals may be expected to run for city councils or take on other leadership roles. Small towns may even offer financial incentives to keep rural practices open.

Urban practices tend to have higher overhead. More competition keeps marketing expenses higher since patients have more choices. Urban dentists are more likely to refer patients out for specialty care.

Lifestyle can vary tremendously. The cost of living is usually lower in a rural area, with the trade off being less nightlife, fewer restaurants, and limited cultural opportunities. An urban setting can be much more expensive but it may offer more academic options for your children.

Get expert help

ADA Practice Transitions can help you narrow down your options and then match you with your perfect practice. Find out how our expert team can make your entire practice transition easier and less stressful by helping you find your ideal practice situation. Start your profile today.

Start your profile today

Topics: incoming dentist, associateship, purchase a practice


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