Why Demographics Is the LEAST and MOST Important Thing to Consider

I firmly believe that owning your practice is the best career move a dentist can make for both their career satisfaction and your wallet. You’re likely to spend at least as much time in the practice you own as your own house. So pick a good practice!


Finding a good practice to buy is a two-part decision. First, do the numbers of the practice look good? And second, do you like where the practice is?

After all, you could be working in the best practice in the world, but if you don’t like where you live you’re likely to be miserable!

I strongly recommend that your first step towards practice ownership should be picking where you want to live.

Geography is king.

..sort of.

The demographics of where you’re going to be a practice owner are both the MOST important aspect of your search, and the LEAST important.

Let me explain what I mean.

Why Demographics is the MOST Important

When I say demographics are the MOST important thing to consider, I mean two very specific things.

First, you have to want to live where you practice.

  • Is this where you want to spend the next 20+ years of your life?
  • Perhaps more importantly, is this where your significant other wants to spend the next 20+ years?
  • Are there seemingly minor annoying things about the area like a commute or the weather that will be a major annoyance over time?
  • Do you have personal ties to the area? Or…do you have ties to another area of the country you’re going to miss?

Second, do the patients in the area you want to live want the dental work you want to provide?

If you’re looking to be the next queen of cosmetic dentistry, can the people in your geography afford the work you want to do? If you’re gung-ho about implants, does the average patient need that work done? If you have your heart set on a fee for service practice, what percentage of the population in your target market have insurance or medicaid?

You need to know the answers to questions like that!

As silly as it sounds, I ask these questions of my clients every day and the majority of dentists struggle to answer them.

But… I believe there are some hidden dangers with demographics:

Why Demographics is the LEAST Important

I see two common mistakes when it comes to dentists making career choices based on demographics. Both mistakes are easy to make.

The first, is to make a career decision based on demographics alone. The common phrasing around this typically sounds something like, “Brian, I don’t care where in the country I live. I just want to find a great practice to buy.”

Oh, really?

You don’t care at all where you live?

I believe you if you say you could live any number of 3, 4 or 7 different cities. I’ve lived all over the U.S. and can attest that there are some awesome areas all over the country.

But, c’mon. You have to care about something where you live.

I’ve heard all the same things you have, “You can’t fail in rural Texas!” or “Small cities are always better than big cities.” There may be some general truths to those broad statements, but a career is a long time to live somewhere.

Be honest about your preferences and help those inform your decision.

The second mistake is a little more insidious. I see enough dentists make the mistake of overanalyzing demographics to make a decision. It’s the demographics version of analysis paralysis. Some dentists will go around and around with mutiple different site studies teasing out the minutia of one geography’s differences compared to another.

I think data is great. More data can be better.

But if you’re using data as an excuse to NOT reach out to dentists and brokers in an area, create relationships, and look at specific practices for sale…you’re confusing activity with action (more on that here).

Demographics Resources I Recommend

The two most common resources I see that consistently do a good job for dentists are Doctor Demographics and Dentagraphics.

Both are excellent, and both have different report options for the various data needs you might have: comparing multiple locations, drilling down on a specific address, finding an under-served area for a startup, etc.

Both services are slightly different and one may fit your needs better than another.

You can see sample reports of both companies at these links:
Dentagraphics Sample Reports
Doctor Demographics Sample Reports