Rural vs. Urban Dental Setting in Kansas and Missouri: What You Should Know

Working in a Rural vs. Urban Dental Setting: What You Should Know | The AGA Group

Whether you’re a hygienist or a doctor, when it comes to pursuing a career in dentistry in the St. Louis and Kansas City metro area, there are several factors to consider, including the type of setting in which you want to practice. In states like Kansas and Missouri, where both rural and urban areas coexist, dental professionals often face the decision of whether to work in a rural or urban environment. Each setting has unique challenges and rewards, making it essential for aspiring dentists and dental professionals to understand what they should know before making this crucial decision.

Rural vs. Urban Dental Practices in Kansas & Missouri

For dentists seeking to own their own practice, opening up shop in a rural area may have some benefits over urban settings. A lower cost of living means lower costs of doing business. Your staff will have slightly smaller salaries to support a less expensive average cost of living. However, while urban settings are more expensive, you’ll likely have more patients with dental coverage to support the practice.

For employees, some of these same pros and cons apply. There are more opportunities for activities in urban settings, but rural settings can be lovely and healthy. Also, rural environments are in desperate need of dental practitioners and staff. If you’re looking for meaningful work, a rural dental practice may be exactly what you need.

The Rural Dental Setting: A Closer Look

Rural areas in Kansas and Missouri present distinct circumstances for dental professionals. While the lifestyle may differ significantly from urban areas, there are several aspects to consider when considering dentistry in these rural communities.

  1. Limited access to dental care: One of the most pressing issues in rural areas is the limited access to dental care. Harvard Magazine calls these areas “the dental desert.” These regions often lack the density of dental practices found in urban centers. Currently, these rural regions are designated Dental Health Professional Shortage Areas (DHPSA), and it’s estimated Kansas needs 100 additional dentists, and rural Missouri needs 275 to move away from these federally qualified rural designations. As a dental professional in a rural setting, you may find yourself serving a larger catchment area, potentially requiring more travel to reach patients—and for them to reach you.
  2. Unique patient demographics: Rural areas tend to have a different patient demographic than urban settings. Patients may include agricultural workers, elderly individuals, and families with limited dental education and preventive care access. Understanding these unique demographics is crucial for tailoring your practice to the specific needs of your patients.
  3. Community engagement: Practicing dentistry in a rural setting often involves a higher level of community engagement. Dentists in these areas may become deeply integrated into their communities, participating in local events, providing education, and even offering pro bono services to those in need. Building trust and relationships within the community can be immensely rewarding but also requires a commitment to social responsibility.
  4. Limited technological resources: Rural dental practices may have limited access to the latest dental technologies and equipment due to budget constraints. This trend can impact the range of services you can offer and may require dental professionals to be resourceful and creative in their approaches to patient care.
  5. Lifestyle benefits: On the positive side, rural settings often provide a quieter, more relaxed lifestyle compared to bustling urban environments. Working in rural Kansas or Missouri may be appealing if you value a slower pace of life, clean air, and close-knit communities.
  6. Competitive advantage: Due to the shortage of dental professionals in rural areas, dentists may experience less competition, potentially leading to a more stable patient base and opportunities for professional growth. Building a reputable practice can be somewhat easier in areas where dental services are in high demand. For dental staff eager to find talent, these rural practices may pay lucrative salaries, especially when weighed against the cost of living.

The Urban Dental Setting: A Different Perspective

Conversely, urban settings in Kansas and Missouri offer a contrasting experience for dental professionals.

  1. High population density: Urban areas boast a higher population density, translating to a more extensive patient base. With a larger pool of potential patients, dentists in urban settings may have a broader range of cases and more diverse experiences.
  2. Advanced technologies: Urban dental practices typically have access to state-of-the-art dental technologies and equipment. This reality can be advantageous for both patients and professionals, as it allows for more advanced treatments and better patient outcomes.
  3. Competitive environment: Urban areas tend to be highly competitive, with numerous dental practices vying for the same patient pool. Building a successful practice in such an environment may require significant marketing efforts, exceptional patient care, and a unique selling proposition.
  4. Diverse patient demographics: Urban areas are known for their cultural and economic diversity. Dental professionals working in these settings must be prepared to treat a wide range of patients from various backgrounds, each with their unique dental health needs.
  5. Continuing education opportunities: Urban areas often offer dental professionals more education opportunities. With access to conferences, seminars, and specialized training, dentists can stay up-to-date with the latest advancements in the field.
  6. Work-life balance considerations: While urban settings provide a plethora of professional opportunities, they can also be hectic and fast-paced. Balancing work with personal life may require careful planning to avoid burnout.

Rural vs. Urban: Determining Which Dental Practice Setting is Best for You

Now that we’ve explored the key differences between rural and urban dental settings in Kansas and Missouri, it’s essential to consider some factors that can help you make an informed decision.

  1. Personal values and lifestyle: Your personal values and lifestyle preferences should play a significant role in your decision. Consider what type of environment aligns with your values and the kind of lifestyle you want to lead.
  2. Patient demographics: Think about the type of patients you want to serve. Do you prefer working with a specific demographic, such as families, the elderly, or individuals from diverse backgrounds? Your choice of setting will impact the patients you treat.
  3. Career goals: Reflect on your long-term career goals. Are you looking for a more stable and traditional practice, or are you excited by the challenges and opportunities of a competitive urban environment? Keep in mind, your career goals may change over time.
  4. Practice ownership: If you aspire to own your dental practice, research the specific regulations and requirements for practice ownership in both rural and urban areas. Ownership opportunities may vary significantly.
  5. Community involvement: Consider the level of community involvement you desire. Rural settings often require a deeper commitment to community engagement, while urban areas might provide opportunities for different types of involvement, such as working with non-profit organizations.
  6. Professional growth: Assess the potential for professional growth in each setting. In rural areas, you may have a unique chance to establish yourself as a respected local practitioner, while urban areas offer more extensive networks and opportunities for specialization.
  7. Patient care philosophy: Reflect on your patient care philosophy. Are you more inclined towards preventive care and community health, or do you thrive on complex treatment cases and specialization?
  8. Support network: Consider your support network, including family and colleagues. The location you choose should be conducive to your personal life and well-being.
  9. Research and due diligence: Before making a final decision, conduct thorough research on specific areas within Kansas and Missouri that interest you. Investigate the local dental landscape, community needs, and potential for practice growth.
  10. Flexibility: Keep in mind that your decision doesn’t have to be permanent. Dentists can transition between rural and urban settings throughout their careers, allowing flexibility as your personal and professional priorities evolve.

Choosing between working in a rural or urban dental setting in Kansas and Missouri is a significant decision that can shape your career and lifestyle. Both locations offer unique advantages and challenges; the right choice ultimately depends on your preferences, career goals, and values.

It’s crucial to conduct thorough research, consider your long-term aspirations, and evaluate the specific opportunities and demands of each setting. Whether you decide to serve the close-knit communities of rural areas or the diverse populations of urban centers, your commitment to dental excellence and patient care will be the driving force behind your success in either environment.

Contact Our Kansas & Missouri Dental Recruiters Today!

The AGA Group is devoted to staffing dental practices in Missouri and Kansas. Our experienced team has been at it for more than 40 years. We specialize in staffing solutions for our dental practice partners in the Greater Kansas City Metro Area, including Overland Park, Wichita, St. Louis, Kansas City, and Omaha. Our highly specialized team of recruiters offers extensive networks of dental professionals to help you meet your hiring goals. Whether augmenting your existing staff with talent to help you scale or helping build a new practice.

Whether it’s augmenting your existing staff with talent to help you scale, or helping build a new practice, the AGA Group has what it takes to help you succeed.

Talk with our team today about how we can help your practice—or your professional career.


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