The time has come. You’ve fulfilled your dreams of becoming a dentist. People will start referring to you as Dr. (insert your name), and that may take a little getting used to. But like most new accomplishments, this one comes with a set of new challenges to sort through. One thing to consider when buying or establishing a dental practice of your own is where to live in proximity to your practice. Here are a few pros and cons to consider when making the decision.
An essential part of being a successful dental professional is being involved in the community you practice in. Living close to your practice will make it easy to become an engaged and active community member. It is important for dental professionals to be active in their communities in order to establish a good reputation, obtain referrals and grow the practice. If you live too far from your practice, these connections may be more difficult to build.
Another benefit to living close to your practice is being available to accommodate patient needs and emergencies. When the parents of a 9-year-old patient call in a panic because he broke his tooth at 4 p.m. on a Sunday, your response may depend on whether you have a 5-minute versus a 60-minute drive back to your office.
However, there are definitely some disadvantages to living so close to your practice. Most everyone enjoys having some privacy and a personal life away from work. This may become an issue if you live and work in the same small town, for example. Those of us who’ve lived in small towns understand that you never know who you’ll run into at the local bar or grocery store. It is important to have a good relationship with your patients so they feel you are engaged in their lives, but you still need to maintain a professional image.
Considering all of this, perhaps there is a happy medium. Several dentists I know live a few towns over from their practice. This allows them to be close enough to be involved in the community, but they’re also able to have some privacy for their personal lives (sometimes you just need to run to the grocery store in your PJs). Of the 10 dentists I spoke with, the average commute to their private practices was about 20 minutes, but every dentist is different in what they view as an appropriate commute. Hopefully these considerations can help you in that big decision – where to establish your practice and where to live to get there!
~ Kirsten Miller, predental, New England College ’17