'The community knows you and trusts you': New dentists share advantages of rural practice

ADA Practice Transitions matches dentists with owners who are seeking an associate or someone to purchase their practice

Kristen Sciolino, D.M.D., practices in Lincoln, Maine — population 4,853.

As a dentist in a small, rural community, Dr. Sciolino said her family wouldn’t have it any other way.

She is just one of many new dentists who have chosen to practice in a rural setting, whether it be in public health or at a private practice or dental service organization.

Photo of Kristen Sciolino, D.M.D.
Dr. Sciolino

"The pressure and pace of life in rural areas is different from urban ones," said Dr. Sciolino, a 2020 graduate of the University of New England College of Dental Medicine in Portland, Maine. "My husband loves the small-town feel here and has been more relaxed than when we lived closer to a larger city. I like to think our blood pressure has improved as well."

She found the practice that was right for her through ADA Practice Transitions, which linked her to Joe Thibodeau, D.M.D., who was looking for a successor. She purchased Dr. Thibodeau's practice in 2021 after working together for about a year after they were matched.

"I think the advantages of being a rural dentist is that the community knows you and trusts you," Dr. Sciolino said. "They bring their families to you and their friends. You become a part of the community in a meaningful and fulfilling way. I find fulfillment in knowing I am bringing access of care to people who need it."

She is also grateful to ADAPT for helping her find the perfect match.

Sean Boynes, D.M.D., is president of Dental Medicine Consulting and also serves as the science and research adviser to the American Institute of Dental Public Health. He is a big proponent of dentists working in rural areas when they graduate.

"The rural environment allows dentists to tap into their inner entrepreneur and to build a business from the ground up," said Dr. Boynes. "A young dentist would have a better opportunity to develop a personal brand that is meaningful. Beyond the fresh air and ability to pay off debt at a quicker pace because personal real estate, taxes and the overall cost of living is [typically] less, there is the ability to be that old-fashioned traditional dentist leader in your community."

Photo of Sean Boynes, D.M.D.
Dr. Boynes

Dr. Boynes added: "There really is something to be said for sponsoring Little League sports, having your ad in the school newspaper and getting a good table with the best food at the local restaurant, [which can have] positive effects on mental well-being and happiness."

Working in a rural area can also make additional financial sense, he said.

"There are now more ways to pay off student debt for rural dentists, as many states tackle dentist shortages with loan repayment programs," Dr. Boynes said. "Many state agencies and national programs, like the National Health Service Corps through the Health Resources and Services Administration, offer loan repayment in exchange for practicing in a dental Health Professional Shortage Area."

Jessica M. Sikora, D.M.D., is another 2020 graduate of the University of New England College of Dental Medicine whose desire to practice dentistry in a rural locale led her to use ADAPT to match with Shanna Gagnon, D.M.D., in Farmingdale, Maine (population: 2,995).

"I think there are many advantages to being a dentist in a rural area compared to a more urban area, with the most important to me being your interaction with the community," Dr. Sikora said. "I love that where I work everyone knows everyone some way or another."

Photo of Jessica M. Sikora, D.M.D.
Dr. Sikora

Dr. Sikora grew up in a small town in Pennsylvania and always knew that she would prefer to work and raise a family in a similar situation. She said that ADAPT helped her find the perfect place for her to practice.

"This community was everything I was looking for," she said. "I love that I live in an area where I know all my neighbors on the street we live on and that everyone is so welcoming and willing to help out with anything you need."

Powered by the ADA, ADA Practice Transitions supports the future of dentistry by helping dentists buy or sell a practice, hire an associate or find a job. ADAPT matches dentists who are looking to join a practice with owners who are seeking an associate or someone to purchase their practice.

To learn more, visit ADAPracticeTransitions.com.