According to the University of Columbia College of Dental Medicine, the average age of dental school enrollees is about 24.
The ADA’s Health Policy Institute (HPI) found that in 2001 the average age of dentists’ retirement was 64.8. In 2013, the average retirement age was 68.7. Dentists in practice are delaying their retirements for an additional 4 years.
HPI also found that between 2008 and 2013, some 2,100 foreign-trained dentists joined the U.S. workforce, 772 dentists renewed an expired license, and 342 dentists left retirement to return to work.
Those dentists joined the 25,214 dental school graduates from the same 5-year period.
Without a doubt, dental competition is increasing as the result of all those factors: delayed retirement, foreign-trained dentists, dentists relicensing, dentists returning from retirement, and new graduates.
Assuming that today’s dental school graduates begin work at age 28, they’ll be in the workforce for 40 more years. And those new dentists will almost certainly face a mountain of debt from their studies.
Some – perhaps not many – of those new dentists will have the resources to open their practices. Some will find employment in group practices. And quite a few will go to work for corporate dental practices. Eventually, many of those recent graduates who initially worked for someone else will have reduced their debt enough to open their own practices. And they will, because they’ll be hungry to eliminate the rest of their student debt and begin enjoying the taste of success.
How will you respond in the short term to the ever-increasing competition and the comparative scarcity of new patients?
But taking a longer view, the federal government’s Health Resources and Services Administration estimated in February 2015 that by 2025, the demand for dentists will outpace the supply. Then the question becomes, how will your position yourself to make the most of that unmet need?
The answer to both is to leave the traditional model of dental advertising that “chases” new patients every month.
It’s only a slight exaggeration to say that if everyone is advertising, no one is advertising. The more dentists who are advertising in your market, the more expensive it becomes to “break through the clutter” and attract the patients you need. As competition increases, the cost goes even higher.
Playing the same game as your competitors gets you only incremental, and often temporary, advantages. It’s a month-to-month endless war highlighted by discounts, coupons, and free offers that gets you price shoppers and one-and-dones.
You might consider playing the game differently so that you get the steady supply of quality new patients you need to be successful in the face of competition.
If you want to position yourself to thrive now and in the future, go to smartboxdental.com/blueprint and schedule a Patient Attraction Blueprint™ session. They are free to serious dentists who want to see a patient attraction system that can double their practice. You can get more patients, more profits, and more freedom.
That’s how you can win the game, on your terms, in bad times and good.