You have probably heard the familiar adage “Location, location, location!” The importance of this principle cannot be overstated when considering where to begin a dental practice. Choosing a location is a complex decision. Many factors weigh into this determination. We must first decide where we want to live. Do we have the ability to move anywhere in the country, or are we committed to one location? Can we choose what climate we prefer and move to an area amenable to that preference? Do we enjoy fitness activities and the outdoors? Do we prefer the bustle of the city, or the peacefulness of a small town?
We are at times limited in our selection process by the area in which we live. We must evaluate how far we are willing to commute to work each day. We must determine what type of dentistry we want to practice. Do we want to do a lot of dentures? Do we mind doing extractions or root canals? Are we capable of being a one-stop-shop when it comes to providing every imaginable dental service? If the answer to those questions is, “No,” then we cannot select to work in a small town far from any larger metropolitan area. Do we enjoy working with children? Would we prefer to work primarily on adults and the aging population?
Our answers can guide decisions regarding the type of community in which we choose to open our office doors. The answers to these questions are different for all of us. They are, however, questions which necessitate honest responses before you can conclude where you ultimately desire to practice dentistry. Important factors including living close to family and friends and practicing in your hometown may help determine your final destination.
Before making a final decision as to where to locate a new dental office or before purchasing an established dental office, the important step of researching demographics must be taken. The vast majority of established dental offices still rely on new patients to provide life blood to their office. A decision of this magnitude cannot simply be based on your particular desire to live and work in a certain community. Factors such as population turnover, current number of dentists in the area, new construction and drive-by traffic must be considered.
When I first moved back to Missouri, I desired to live in a particular community that is centrally located within St. Louis. This area is known for its beautiful old homes, eclectic shops, restaurants and culture. I desired to work close to home and soon began working a few evenings a week to establish a new dental practice within the office of my childhood dentist. I used his office when he was not seeing patients. I had not performed enough demographic research and soon found myself fighting a bit of an uphill battle to attract new patients. This area of St. Louis is landlocked with very little new construction of homes or businesses. Families in this area have lived there for years and therefore already have a dentist they know and trust. Even my childhood dentist who inspired me to go into dentistry, and who is an outstanding clinician, is still accepting new patients after more than 30 years in practice. Growing a practice from scratch in this area would have proved extremely difficult so I began to research areas in St. Louis which were experiencing a large population spike. The decision to move to a fast growing suburb in a location with a large amount of drive-by traffic has made a tremendous difference for my practice growth.