Did You Hear About The Saudi Dentists?

A 2019 study on the incidence and prevalence of work-related musculoskeletal disorders (WMSD) in Saudi Arabia probably flew under your radar. However, the results broadly mirror findings from previous studies on the same topic and in fact may demonstrate that the problems are getting worse.

The Saudi study sampled 234 practicing dentists; while not specified in the study, it would be a mistake to assume that those dentists did not have modern, ergonomic chairs, equipment, and stools in their operatories. Take what follows with a grain of salt, certainly, but you shouldn’t ignore the implications for your future.

Findings: Dentistry Is A Pain In The Neck, And The Back

The study found that the prevalence of WMSD was 70%. The most common locations where dentists experienced WMSD pain were the low back (85%) and the neck (84.6%). 

Think about that for a moment. Nearly 9 in 10 dentists reported chronic pain directly attributable to your profession. And by the way, women dentists and dentists who didn’t exercise on a regular basis were at increased risk. 

As if those figures weren’t bad enough, carpal tunnel syndrome was reported by nine percent of respondents. The longer a dentist had been in practice, the more likely they were to have carpal tunnel.

If these numbers generalize to the large mass of dentists, you should probably assume that your time in the profession is limited. And if you’re experiencing any of the musculoskeletal problems listed above, your time is likely even more limited. That means the time to prepare is now.

What’s Your Exit Strategy?

The large majority of dentists factor in the sale price of their practice when considering retirement. If you’re one of them, you’ll need to increase your earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation, and amortization (EBITDA). That’s the most common metric to estimate the sale price of a dental practice.

You’ll also need to establish a positive trend line in your EBITDA; purchasers (particularly private equity investors) aren’t going to be overly interested in a declining practice. Basically, you need to seriously drive your revenue over a number of years while holding the line on expenses. 

It’s rare these days that practices sell for multiples of earnings, but there are exceptions. You want to be one of the exceptions to assure yourself of a comfortable life after dentistry whether you’re retiring or starting a new venture.  

Ask Yourself This

If you were looking to purchase a dental practice, which one would be a more attractive option? A high-volume, low case value practice with a lot of churn in the patient base and a 5-figure monthly marketing investment? Or a stable practice with higher case value and low to moderate patient churn?

The smart money would go with the latter. 

That’s not to say that you can’t sell the other kind of practice, but the odds are good that it will bring a lower sale price.

Since your time in dentistry may be limited, the time to act is now. Don’t think that “business as usual” will get you to the next stage in your life with any measure of comfort.