When you open a new dental practice, it's important to understand the demographics of the area. Checking out the area's demographics can also give you a better idea of whether you want to open your own practice or buy an existing practice. Before you dive in with your new dental practice, make sure you understand these key elements.
How Many Dentists are in the Area?
Opening a dental practice means that you need patients. Unfortunately, patients in your area might already have a dentist (or a well-established habit of visiting the dentist only when there's something desperately wrong). Existing patients will likely only move from their current practice if they are dissatisfied in some way: they can't get an appointment with their existing dentist, they aren't satisfied with the dentist's quality of service, or they want something a little closer to home, for example. If you try to open a new practice in an area that is saturated with dentists, especially dentists who already specialize in exactly the type of dentistry you do, you may find it difficult to draw in new patients. In many cases, that can doom your practice before you even have a chance to get started.
On the other hand, if you consider a practice in an area with few other dentists, you may find that it's easier to get patients through the door. Many people in the area may be using dentists who are out of the way or avoiding making those critical appointments--and they'll be more likely to make them when you open your practice and make it more convenient for them.
What Type of Dentistry Do You Specialize In?
Take a look at the community you're considering for your practice. What does the general population look like? Is it a young and growing population, or do you see more older adults in the area? Make sure those demographics fit with your plans for your practice. Carefully consider what area you most want to specialize in--and consider how it could impact your income. Retirees, for example, often have a reasonable amount of disposable income, and they often need dental treatments--both to help save their teeth and for cosmetic reasons as their oral health declines with age.
Overall Demographics: What Do They Look Like?
Even as a general dentist, you may need to carefully consider how dental demographics have changed over the last several years. Increasingly, even low-income populations see more focus on providing high-quality preventative service for patients, which means that patients have fewer dental emergencies and overall immediate concerns. In 1971, for example, children between the ages of 5 and 17 had an average of more than 7 diseased or missing teeth or teeth that had already been filled. More recent demographics, however, suggest that children between those ages have an average of around two teeth that have already had problems.
By 2040, an anticipated 62% of dental expenditures will come from patients age 40 and over. In an area with a high population of those individuals, you may see a wider range of potential patients with dental problems--which could help you boost your income and your practice. An aging population in your specific area can, in general, provide more opportunities for you as a dentist.
In General, How Many Patients in the Area Have Insurance?
Before you decide where to open your practice, consider the dental insurance that's most prevalent in the area. Do most patients have dental insurance, or do they tend to private pay out of pocket? Consider reimbursement rates for different providers: some insurance companies will allow you to bill their patients for only a specific amount, but they may not pay enough to cover the full cost of treatment. The last thing you want is to deal with an ongoing insurance headache--and the amount you can collect from your patients and their insurance companies will make a big difference in your ability to keep your practice running profitably.
Where Do You Want to Live?
You don't have to live where you practice dentistry, but you do want your office to be within a reasonable commute to your home. Carefully consider where you want to live. You may, for example, feel trapped in a specific geographic area by family and other considerations. Before you open your practice, however, carefully consider where you want to live long-term. Make sure you have a solid business plan as well as an ongoing plan for your life.
Are you looking for more help opening your dental practice? Do you need a dental attorney who can help you design your business plan and put together the important legal paperwork for your business, or a demographic study that can help you better understand how to find the right area for your practice? Contact us today to learn more about the services we offer and how they can make it easier to open your first dental practice.