Like many other things, having a strong contingency of children in your practice can be counter intuitive. Most doctors want patients 50 plus years old with lots of decay, lots of money, and the need for a lot of dentistry. Pretty much a mantra that older people are good, and kids are bad. There is a problem in most places for most practices with this limited view of the patient funnel. If you take a look at your own practice demographics, you can see a profile of who your potential patients are. It lists income levels, median age, education, race profiles, etc. In a sense, this is your audience. These are the people you market to. If you are in a growing, stable demographic, then there are going to be kids that need a dentist.
If we look at McKinney, Texas, where I practiced for almost 40 years, we see steady growth, average age of about 33, everyone has kids, dual income families, and everyone went to college. I am exaggerating a bit, but you get the idea. Middle-class to upper middle-class families that are highly educated, always went to the dentist themselves, and are upwardly mobile from in an ever-changing job market. This demographic is where everyone wants to live. But competition is through the roof, and the population needs very little in the way of dentistry. A cleaning and bleaching tray is considered comprehensive dentistry for a large portion of our population in McKinney. We have to see a lot more patients to filter out the pearls of higher end dentistry.
Dentistry is a consumer driven business where people decide who they buy products and services from. Your patients vote with their feet and in the new dental economy we find ourselves in, we need every patient we can find. Every business has an entry point that makes or breaks their financial well-being. In dentistry, especially in a demographic with the average age being in the mid-thirties, kids are the entry point. Families will spend money on their kids that they wouldn’t spend on themselves. Mom brings the kids to the dentist first, and if the kids are excited with the experience she will soon follow. Way down the road, you eventually get dad to come in at the insistence of his wife. Women always control the checkbook and make 92% of all dental appointments. The kids are the wide mouth of that patient funnel that can guarantee success from start up to long-term strategic positioning of your practice. Think about it. McKinney is now a fairly typical suburb with lots of kids, and if I can get the kids, I will get the parents, and if I get the parents, the grandparents (who move to McKinney to be near the grandkids) will soon follow. This is a formula that is tried and true but has lost favor in the face of young doctors denying the reality of demographics and consumer driven business strategies.
If you are struggling to make it in dentistry, if you find your bills pilling up and your future tumbling down, you have the wrong consumer driven culture. Wake up and smell the roses. Kids can make or break you. Truth be told, kids have an acute B_ll Sh_t meter that sees right through slick marketing and scripts. If you can inspire and impress kids, you can do the same with any other age demographic. Seeing kids in your practice will assure a consistent growth of 15% or more year in and year out.
Consider hygiene and the ramifications of actually getting profitability coming out of our hygiene departments. Most cities and large towns are at about 76% dental insurance coverage for their demographic. If children are a low hanging fruit, huge new patient source, and steady income stream, consider the impact of this outreach on hygiene. For normal insurance reimbursements for an exam and cleaning, you will see that there is only about a 12% difference in your fee reimbursement for adults and children. The “Aha” moment comes when you realize that at least two kids can be seen in the same time period as one adult. Welcome to another level of hygiene profitability while super charging your new patient flow and future potential of those older patients you covet.
The last consideration is that like dentures, few general dentists are pursuing children for their practices. There is less competition and a huge downline of plusses for you and your practice. This is how you Summit.
Michael Abernathy, DDS
PS. There are many online sites for researching demographic information by zip code. Here a links to a couple of them: www.zipwho.com and www.census.gov/quickfacts