Finding the Right Location
Choosing the right location can make the difference between a thriving practice and one that struggles to make ends meet. Where you practice determines to some extent how you can practice dentistry. For example, if you go to a location where people have more money to spend on dental work, you can provide a wider range of treatment options that the patients can truly afford. Knowing the demographics of the area you choose can help you focus on an area that is not over-served but has the potential to give you the client base that fits with your goals as a dentist.
Once you choose the community where you want to practice, you also need to choose a site for your dental office. Where you practice dentistry is both directly and indirectly important to the success of your dentistry business. Consider whether the site is convenient to other businesses and to the patients’ workplaces and homes. What is the property you are thinking of buying or leasing like? You need to consider all the physical properties of the site and think about whether patients will want to come to this building in all types of weather and circumstances. Just as important, is this a location where you will want to come and meet the public. Will you be happy in this building? Will you be able to furnish it and equip it in a way you can be proud to present to your clients? Evaluate each property you are considering based on how it will affect your practice and your dentistry business.
Demographics and the Dentistry Business
Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines demographics as “the statistical characteristics of human population (as age and income) used especially to identify markets.”
Always remember that when you are analyzing the demographics of a community, you are really trying to find out what types of patients you will be able to serve there. You may be deciding whether you will spend your time fitting dentures or adjusting braces. You may be determining whether patients will be able to afford more than essential services and whether the people in the area even go to the dentist.
The first thing you need to determine is how many people in the community are going to the dentist at all. According to a 2014 review of statistics conducted by Chantel Ramraj, MSc, et. on the Canadian dentistry profession, the percentage of people who reported having a dental visit grew from 60.3% in 2001 to 75.5% in 2009. It is certainly good that more people are going to the dentist, but that still leaves many people who never go at all. Since each community is different, this can be one factor to consider when you choose your dentistry business location.
In Illustration 1, you can see that Ontario and Quebec have the greatest percentages of the Canadian population. Yet, Ontario also has the lowest percentage of people who did not see a dentist in 2009 due to financial reasons. Thus, Ontario is a place where dental health seems to be valued. In Ontario, the raw figures for opportunity are great. Quebec has the next highest percentage of Canada’s population, but the percentage of people who don’t see the dentist is much greater. What does this mean to you? If you offer financing for dental treatment in Quebec and let people there know it is available, you have an untapped source of potential dental patients who are not currently seeing a dentist. These are the types of statistics you need to analyze to determine where the greatest opportunities lie.
[Bar chart-the chart needs some work before I send it to the graphics designer]
Province: province share of CA population; percentage of people in province who did not see a dentist in 2009 due to financial reasons
Quebec: 7.90%; 39.9%
British Columbia: 4.40%; 31.2%
Alberta: 3.65%; 35.8%
Manitoba: 1.21%; 36.2%
Saskatchewan: 1.03%; 39.9%
Nova Scotia: 0.93%; 35.1%
New Brunswick: 0.75%; 39.6%
Newfoundland and Labrador: 0.51%; 49.6%
Prince Edward Island: 0.14%’ 33.2%
Northwest Territories: 0.04%; 38.2%
Yukon: 0.03%; 36.5%
Nunavut: 0.03%; 48.5%]
Another demographic to consider is the ages of the people in the community where you are looking to open your dentistry business. People of different age groups need different types of dental care. While an older population is more likely to need restorative treatments, a younger population is more likely to need excellent preventative and orthodontic care. For this demographic, it is crucial that you examine the exact location of the dental office and the surrounding community, since each community has its own age characteristics. The Canadian government has a website where you can look for the population characteristics of different cities and provinces at http://www12.statcan.gc.ca/census-recensement/2011/dp-pd/prof/index.cfm?Lang=E Also, if there is a City-Data.com page for the city you’re considering for your dentisty business, you can quickly look up age characteristics of the group there. Simply scroll down to the section on age characteristics, as in this page for Toronto. http://www.city-data.com/canada/Toronto-1.html The site also lists median income for the city, which will have a bearing on how many elective treatments patients will choose. In addition, you can get statistics for the particular community within a city from local sources such as real estate professionals and local governments.
It can be a bit of a task to evaluate all the available statistics and what they might mean to your dentistry business. However, the effort can pay off in huge financial rewards and in the ability to have the type of practice you are most interested in having.
Demographics to consider include:
- number of households
- Marital status
- Home values
- Projected household growth
- Type of transportation used most
- Average travel time for daily commutes to work
- Amount of discretionary spending
- Property tax rates
Dentist to Patient Ratio
How many potential patients do you need to run a successful dentistry business? Some experts suggest that the optimal number of potential patients per dentist is 2000. And in fact, the overall statistics for Canada fall right in line with this number. According to the Canadian Dental Association, there were 57.6 dentists per 100,000 people in 2009. That translates to about 1.15 dentists per 2000 people.
However, some areas of the country have more dentists per capita than the above average. Urban areas tend to have more dentists per person. British Columbia has the highest number of dentists at about 1 dentist per 1509 people and Newfoundland and Labrador has the lowest, with about 1 dentist per 2891 people.
Does this mean you should go to Newfoundland and Labrador to practice the dental profession? That is an option. However, this is just one figure to consider in your quest to find the most advantageous location for your business. What matters more is the figures for smaller areas. If you want to practice in Toronto, compare dentist to patient ratios in one Toronto neighborhood compared to another in the same city. These statistics are a little harder to find. However, you can hire a demographics research company to help you find the pockets of need within the city where you would like to practice.
Going to an out-of-the-way dental clinic makes it hard for people to fit dental visits into their schedules. This can be a hassle for your patients, who would rather combine trips or go to an office near their home or work. So, one of the factors you would be wise to consider is whether the location is near places your patients frequent. You can attract more patients if your office is near:
- Office buildings
- Residential areas
- Shopping centers
- Community and cultural centers
By choosing a location that is on your patient’s way to or from something else they do, you open up opportunities to promote your business. Not only can you include this information in your marketing materials but you can reach out to potential clients through those other companies. For instance, you might offer a free dental cleaning to people moving into an apartment near your office. You may be able to contact the apartment management and offer them a coupon to give these people on their move-in date.
Transportation and Traffic
Many business owners sign a lease for a building without thinking about whether their clients will have a hard time getting into their office. An office that is easy to find will attract more clients. If the potential patient knows the streets and highways he or she needs to use to get to your office, he or she will be more confident about setting up an appointment. Then, when you add a map to your website and other marketing materials, prospective patients will immediately say “Of course! I know where that is!” If the patient is going to take public transportation, it is a plus if your office is convenient to its stops.
Traffic can also be a consideration. Although you likely want to be in a location where there are many people to treat, you might not fare so well if you are in an office that is difficult to get to because of heavy traffic. You might also have trouble filling slots during peak traffic times.
Physical Aspects of the Property
Imagine that you have a dental office that is situated in a low-lying spot on the property. This physical characteristic of the property can cause your patients to dread coming to your office, especially at certain times when weather is a factor. During heavy rains, the parking lot might not drain well. In the winter, the driveway may be too steep to drive into easily.These problems might not be deal-breakers, but you might have to spend extra money putting in excellent drainage systems or building up the parking lot so it is even with the street.
Also, consider whether the spot is aesthetically pleasing. A dental office in a rundown area of a city might be helpful for a community that truly needs more dentists. However, choosing a location that is near a wooded lot or in a well-kept shopping district can allow you to appeal to a more affluent clientele. Bottom line is that you need to choose a property with physical characteristics that are acceptable to your target market.
Simply put, you need to make sure that the location is in a commercial zone where dental practices are allowed to operate.