Learn How Patient Demographics Can Help When Buying A Dental Practice

Florida cities are consistently rated among the “Best Places to Retire” in various annual rankings. The state is returning to the days when the population is growing each year at a strong rate (even in the “great recession,” net population still grew, just very slowly). This may seem ominous in a drastically changing demographic with increasing economic diversity, but it’s actually outstanding news for the future of dentistry in nearly all communities throughout Florida.


Generally older individuals, including retirees, are the real lifeblood of the crown and bridge practice. Pediatric and orthodontic practices will also benefit from the general growth as families move into the region and the recovery stabilizes.

Disposable income? Retirees have it.

These new retiree patients are more likely to be interested in higher-cost restorative and cosmetic procedures, and also willing to pay to get what they want. Insurance plans rarely contribute much for extensive reconstruction and cosmetic procedures, which has historically pre-empted the patient from undergoing treatment. Conversely, as this generation steps into retirement, many do in style.

This generation has been financially conservative for their entire life while helping them endure the economic downturn, and now they want the lifestyle they have delayed. They want relaxation, fun, and want to enjoy it with a perfect smile.

In the short term, these patients are insulated from the declining market — they lack high-risk 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 higher risk investments come back while sticking with diversification strategies. Bottom line, these retirees have disposable income and are willing to use it for enhancing their smiles.

Ideal location? You don’t have to live where you work.

While many dentists looking to purchase a practice are focused on Florida’s growth areas searching for neighborhoods with residents similar to their own age and demographic, the reality is these areas may be some of the hardest to be successful and profitable in dentistry. Why? The areas comprised of young professionals and new families generally don’t have major dental needs nor do they have a great deal of disposable income. Without much leftover cash, providing oral health to patients who can pay the fees for service at the most profitable rates is extremely difficult. While this is not the final determinant of a ‘successful’ practice, it’s certainly a favorable position.

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, it’s worth careful consideration of the trade-offs and potential long-term benefits of living in your desired area and working in another.

If you are in your own practice now, plan and enjoy what the future offers. If you are thinking of buying a dental practice, consider areas that may not be demographically similar to you but provide the most profitable outlook for your future.

Retirement communities: Built-in business

Remember, it’s not just the wealthy that retire in Florida’s major cities, whole communities are built for retirees. Sun City Center near Sarasota and St. Petersburg, The Villages near Tampa and Orlando, the interior lake communities near Lakeland, and the Panhandle communities near Destin are prime examples of these communities. These smaller, more rural communities offer many advantages over big cities. The facility costs are usually much less and the staff is often very stable (jobs as a dental assistant or front desk clerk are more often viewed as a career in these communities, rather than a stepping stone). Overhead is generally 10% to 20% lower in rural areas.  Another advantage of these areas is less reduced-fee insurance because there are fewer large corporations or manufacturing employers providing desirable benefits.

The greatest advantage of practicing in these communities is the “older” patients themselves. They typically have a greater respect for your time; arrive for appointments early and have a significantly lower cancellation rate. Additionally, they are available for appointments during weekday business hours. Retired patients place a higher value on relationships, and will seek one with you and your staff. If you invest some personal time with them, they will not only accept the treatment that you recommend, they will often request treatment.

Retirees tend to pay their bills promptly and regularly. Even more importantly, if you provide a personalized environment, they will become advocates for your practice. Although the importance of modern marketing (i.e. web presence) cannot be overstated, this “internal marketing” provides an abundance of practice growth ensuring the success of your practice.

The advantages of buying a dental practice in a more rural community are many fold and should seriously be considered. If you not only “think outside the box”, but consider practicing outside the box, you can achieve the practice (and all rewards it brings) that you imagined when you applied to dental school.

Henry Schein Professional Practice Transitions, Inc. is a national leader in dental practice transitions. A subsidiary of Henry Schein, Inc. they provide expert guidance for selling and buying dental practices, assessing partnership and associateship opportunities and performing dental practice appraisals and valuations.