Guest Post: Dental City Dwellers

As a silver-haired dentist who also enjoys a good road trip now and then, I have had the opportunity to make several observations about life in the U.S. These range from evaluating roadside oddities (I always stop and see them, unless doing so will make me late for a college football game or dinner) to thoughts on the distribution of dentists in America. Since there are no roadside oddities in the office (today), let’s consider that second topic.

Why are the rural and small-town dental markets under-served? (There are fewer than 50,000 people for the sake of our consideration here.) Admittedly, most all dental schools are in big cities. Do dentists become complacent while students and view it as easier to just stay in the city once they graduate? There is a certain attraction in remaining close to the friends they’ve made while in school, I’m sure. And, there are more restaurants, theaters and sporting events in large cities.

Nearly everyone I talk to while on road trips, however — and I’m a talker, so my kids think this number must be upward of 10 million — express such sentiments as, “I wish I knew my neighbors better,” or “a small town is a better place to raise kids.” It seems that nostalgia for small-town America is a big deal, no matter where I go. From a dental point of view, there are untold numbers of small towns that would love to have a new dentist. There is less competition than in the larger cities, and financially, the average small-town dentist does better than the average dentist in a large city. With additional discretionary income, one could purchase a bigger or nicer home, have the ability to support specialty causes, and enjoy more luxury overall. A common-sense consideration will lead to the conclusion that a dentist can make enough money in a small town to be able to take a vacation wherever they want to go.  

So, if you’re a young dentist or your spouse/significant other is one, sit down with them and have the talk. No, not that talk. Consider economic benefits, quality-of-life issues and where you would like to age gracefully. Decide if a smaller market is for you; you may be surprised!

Hopefully, sometime soon, I will see you on a motorcycle tour of Route 66, the Appalachians, or some other great place.

Dr. Dan HolsteenDr. Dan Holsteen is a 1977 graduate of Louisiana State University and a 1982 graduate of the University of Missouri-Kansas City School of Dentistry. Following his dental training in Kansas City, he completed a hospital residency program with the Veteran’s Administration in Topeka, Kansas, before moving to Colorado Springs to set up a private practice. After more than 34 years, Dr. Holsteen sold his practice in March 2018.  Now that he’s not in the dental office every day, Dr. Holsteen is spending more of his time traveling, fishing, riding his motorcycle and perfecting his grandpa skills.