Case Study: How to Buy (And Grow) a Successful Practice

What does it take to become a successful practice owner? And why can it be “easier” in a small town?

Dr. Kristen Sciolino recently sat down with The Dental Brief Podcast to share her story. Hear about her path from social work to dental practice ownership — all while raising two small children.

During her D4 year at the University of New England, Dr. Sciolino created an ADA Practice Transitions profile. She wanted to find a small-town practice that she could buy within a few years.

She landed in Lincoln, Maine, where Dr. Joe Thibodeau was beginning to plan for retirement. The two shared complementary philosophies of care and similar timelines and goals — it was the perfect match. Less than two years after graduating, Dr. Sciolino bought Lincoln Smiles, the million-dollar practice, from Dr. Thibodeau. Today, she’s thriving as he eases into retirement.

Why small-town practices can be lucrative

So what makes a small-town practice such a great choice for someone who wants to own?

As Dr. Sciolino explains, Lincoln (population 5,000) has three dental offices plus an FQHC — but patients throughout the surrounding rural areas drive up to 90 minutes for care. Lincoln Smiles is one of the few accepting new patients.

Since joining Lincoln Smiles, the practice has grown from 10 new patients per month to 10 to 12 every single week. With minimal competition, Lincoln Smiles can be more selective with insurers. Today, between a third and a half of all patients are fee-for-service. There’s no need to pay for pricey advertising. Overhead is low.

Read more about how rural and small-town practices can offer better work-life balance.

Dr. Sciolino loves that working in a small town challenges her to practice the full range of general dentistry, as specialists are 45 minutes away. When she moved to Lincoln, she quickly became known around town and was asked to join committees. Patients are very loyal, and she gets great word-of-mouth referrals.

The lifestyle is ideal, too. Housing costs are much lower than in many cities, and her commute is less than five minutes. Lincoln is surrounded by lakes and forests — yet Bangor International Airport is just 45 minutes away. That makes it easy to escape to Florida and other destinations without the hassle of a major airport.

How ADA Practice Transitions made the match 

Both doctors appreciated the ADA Practice Transitions process. They both began by filling out a detailed online profile that helped articulate their philosophy of care, goals, and timelines, using sliders to indicate the degree to which they agreed with several statements.

Based on complementary profiles and goals, their ADA Advisor connected them while providing several resources. The two hit it off right away and quickly came to an agreement. And since the two share a philosophy of care, patients and staff have enjoyed continuity, leading to strong retention.

Throughout the process, their ADA Advisor provided resources and advice. Dr. Sciolino explains, “ADAPT had a whole kind of manual on common questions, common problems. That really helped guide us through the transition. I felt very supported throughout the process.”