Location, location, location

By Sheri Doniger, DDS, DrBicuspid.com contributing writer

July 15, 2009 -- Editor's note: Sheri Doniger's column, Dental Diaries, appears regularly on the DrBicuspid.com advice and opinion page, Second Opinion.

I know, it sounds like a movie set or a real estate slogan. But determining the location of a movie is just as crucial to the plot and story line development as deciding where to locate your dental office.

If all movies were filmed in the same location, how interesting would that be? However, if several movies were filmed in the same area but had different story lines and genres, they would most likely draw a varied and critical audience.

Dental office location is just as important to a practice's mission and goals. So, how do you determine where you want to open your dental home?

The decision of where to locate your dental home is one of the biggest you will face as a professional. Many factors come into play: urban or rural; urban or suburban; rent or own; one, two, or more treatment rooms ... the list is endless. And aside from the physical space, there are other considerations, such as the potential patient pool and existing dental practices in the area.

Even before deciding where to locate, you have to figure out if the timing is right. My decision was almost made for me. I had been an associate in a dental office run by a male practitioner and his wife, who was the front desk scheduler. I had been treated rather unfairly by the wife, who gave all the "quality," high-production cases to her spouse/owner.

As an associate, you certainly have to take the good with the bad. So I was accepting of this situation until the holidays came. I had planned to visit Florida with my children, but my boss said I had to stay behind at the practice. Mind you, I didn't have any patients scheduled, but I had to stay put "just in case, " since he was also going away. This was my tipping point to start looking for an office. Either I stayed and worked on preventive cases for years, or I needed to move on.

For me, the decision was very simple. I was ready to take the leap.

The right spot

Once I decided I wanted to establish my own practice, I began checking out locations. I wanted to be within a 3-mile radius of my children's school. As a mother, I wanted to be close enough to be able to drop them off at school and be available in case they needed me during the day.

I ultimately found the perfect space: walking distance to the grade school and a mile and a half from the high school. The office was (and still is) large enough for my needs and has ample parking. The selling point of the office was (and still is) floor-to-ceiling picture windows that afford a grand view of the great outdoors. We can vicariously enjoy the skyline and watch approaching weather fronts. The view from my main operatory also includes a famous purple hotel that actually had a mob shooting just a few weeks prior to my renting the space.

Now that I have been in this office for almost 20 years, you may ask, "Did your children ever need you?" My answer is yes -- twice, actually. The panoramic view that afforded views of approaching weather fronts was quite ominous one day. We were expecting torrential rains and winds. My daughter was at camp in an open park just a block from the office. But this was well before the days of cell phones, so I had no way to get in touch with her. As I watched the bad weather approaching, I explained to my patient that I had to leave, that I had to get my daughter to safety. I temporized the tooth, and he said he would wait. I ran out of the office to find my daughter, who, wisely, had been dismissed from camp and sought shelter at our house. Relieved, I returned to the office and the patient -- a little wet, but no worse for the wear.

On another occasion, I received a phone call from the high school nurse. Her opening salvo was: "Your son is bleeding. He will need stitches, but we stopped it for the moment." No explanation, just get over to the school. Again, I had to leave my patient (a preventive visit, the patient did not wait but was rescheduled), and drove to the high school. My son had been doing a curtain call for "Jungle Book" at a performance for senior citizens. The production was highly acrobatic, and the young man who was supposed to do a leap onto my son's back missed his mark. As a result, my son was pushed onto the stage floor and his chin split open. The trooper that he is, he finished the curtain call and ran from the stage to the nurse's office, where I was called.

Yes, he did need stitches, and we took him to the doctor immediately.

Were there other times I was truly needed by my children? Not so many. But those two experiences alone were vindication enough that I had opened my office in the best location to be available if necessary.

Are there other reasons you would pick one location over another? Likely many. But for me, back then, my choice of being near my children was paramount. These days, many women dentists practice together and have operatories set up to allow day care for their infants. How far we have come!

Oh, by the way -- the purple hotel is still standing, although it has been condemned, labeled "uninhabitable." But it still serves as an excellent landmark for patient directions.

And maybe, one day, before it is torn down, someone will decide to make a movie there. It is a great location, I can attest to that.

Sheri Doniger, D.D.S., practices clinical dentistry in Lincolnwood, IL. She has served as an educator in several dental and dental hygiene programs, has been a consultant for a major dental benefit company, and has written for several dental publications. Most recently, she was the editor of Woman Dentist Journal and Woman Dentist eJournal. You can reach her at donigerdental@aol.com.

The comments and observations expressed herein do not necessarily reflect the opinions of DrBicuspid.com, nor should they be construed as an endorsement or admonishment of any particular idea, vendor, or organization.

Copyright © 2009 DrBicuspid.com


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