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Best Place to… Practice?

By Greg Auerbach, MBA

With all the economic bad news for the last few months and now that the election is over so the 24/7 rhetoric has calmed, how about discussing some good news?

If you were not aware, both the Sarasota-Bradenton and Ocala areas were recently named as two of the eight best places to retire, nationally1. While this recognition may seem somewhat ominous for a drastically changing demographic and greater economic diversity, it actually is outstanding news for the future of dentistry in the area and the west coast of Florida. Why? Generally, older individuals, including retirees are the real lifeblood of the crown and bridge and prosthodontic practice. Pediatric and orthodontic practices will obviously benefit from the general growth as families move into the region and we recover from the current downturn.

These new patients are more likely to be interested in higher value restorative and cosmetic procedures, they are more likely to pay to get what they want. It is no secret to dentists that insurance plans rarely pay much for extensive reconstruction and cosmetic procedures which has historically prompted hesitation by the patient to agree to costly procedures. What’s different, though, is that as this generation finally steps into retirement, many do it with style. Many have been relatively frugal their entire life and now they want the lifestyle they have delayed. They want the relaxation, the want the fun, and, for dentistry, they want that magazine and movie perfect smile. In the short term, these patients have been insulated from the declining market of the fall – they’re all or mostly out of risky investments and are more heavily invested in diversified funds that will provide a continued source of income. Those who are a bit further away from retirement, have time to let some of their riskier investments come back while sticking with their diversification. The bottom line, the disposable income is there and their smiles are and will be a priority.

So what if you’re not in your own practice yet? What can you take out of this news? While many purchasers are focused on the growth areas of the West Coast searching for neighborhoods that have residents similar to them, the reality is that these areas may be some of the hardest areas to be successful and profitable in dentistry. Why, you ask? Areas housing young-professionals and new-families generally neither have major dental needs nor have a great deal of disposable income. Without much leftover income, finding the sweet-spot of dentistry, providing oral health to your patients at a fee for service (and most profitable) rate, is extremely difficult to find. While this is not the final determinant of a ‘successful’ practice, it’s certainly a favorable position in which to have your practice.

That is not to say that just because a purchaser may want to live in a specific area that they are not able to benefit from the inherent value of the broader area’s demographics. While this may require a commute to the office, its worth careful consideration of the trade-offs and potential long term benefit of living in the area of most desire while working in another.

So, if you are in your own practice now, plan for and enjoy what the future has to bring to you. If you are not, and you are looking, consider areas where the population may not be exactly like you, but more so like the population that will better provide for you. A little drive may go a long way in a successful, rewarding and profitable career.
1 September/October issue of Where to Retire, a national magazine geared toward helping people with retirement relocation decisions, the Sarasota-Bradenton and Ocala areas were named along with Phoenix, AZ; San Diego, CA; Myrtle Beach, SC; St. George, UT; Santa Fe, NM; and Brevard, NC.

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