3 Simple Ways To Reduce Cancellations In Your Dental Office


Cancellations Kill Production


Picture this: You received three cancellations yesterday and four for today. Your scheduling coordinator immediately scatters to find the short call patient list to fill the holes in your schedule. She tries everything in her power to fill it but still no luck. You lose money and completely blow your chance to meet today’s production goals. It’s an all too common scenario in dental offices around the country. Sounds like a nightmare, doesn’t it?

“Ideally, you want your cancellation percentage to be less than 10 percent.”

Genevieve Poppe, Dental Practice Management Consultant


So, although cancellations can be detrimental to your practice, there are ways to reduce your risk. Although you may never fully eliminate them, Poppe shares with us three simple ways to help reduce no-shows and cancellations in your dental office.


Image of empty dental office to show what happens if you do not reduce cancellations in your dental office.


1. Stop Telling Patients It’s Okay to Cancel.


“Most of us don’t realize it, but we actually give our patients the “OK” to cancel on us.” Genevieve Poppe shared with us. She’s right. Think about it…


Front Office: “Would you like to schedule your next cleaning?”

Patient: “I’m not really sure what my schedule looks like in six months…”

Front Office: “Let’s get you scheduled and you can change it if you need to.”

Patient: “Okay, sounds good.”


Sound familiar? We literally just told the patient it’s okay to cancel on us! We are presenting the notion that this is okay. The expectations given indicate that cancelling or rescheduling is no big deal. It’s simple for us and even simpler for them right? Wrong. So why do we continue to tell our patients that it is?


2. To Reduce Dental Appointment Cancellations, Ask For A Commitment


But truthfully, it’s time we ask our patients to commit, to reduce cancellations in your dental office. Upon check out and reappointment, ask your patient if they are sure they are able to commit to this date and time.


Let’s get you in the schedule. (set a date and time) Now Emma, can you promise me you’ll give me a call 48 hours in advance if you need to change your appointment? “


WAIT for the patient to answer YES.


“What’s the best way to reach you? Should we call your cell, send you a text, or is email better?


“When you keep a promise, not only have you done something nice for someone but you’ve also fulfilled a social contract and shown that you’re a reliable and trustworthy person.”

Nicholas Epley, University of Chicago Booth School


For patients who are not sure of their schedule, or have at least two no-shows, flag them and don’t attempt to reschedule. Otherwise you’re nearly guaranteeing a hole in your schedule in 6 months. Reassure these patients that you’ll contact them when an opening becomes available in the schedule around the time they are due, and add them to your recare tickler list.


We recommend aiming for a 90% reappointment rate among your hygiene team. Using Smart Market Dental, you can measure hygiene reappointment rates and set goals for each provider to help track their progress as they start to use this new no-cancel scripting.


3. Ask Patients Why They’re Cancelling


No one likes conflict, and our front office teams are no exception. When a patient calls to cancel, the instinct is to say “Sure, no problem, thanks for letting us know.” Sure, it’s the easy answer, but it also puts holes in your schedule.


To reduce cancellations in your dental office, you must understand where the problem stems from. In order to do so, we need our front office staff to ask the tough questions and have challenging conversations. When patients call in to cancel, ask them why. With this approach, we can start to understand the reasons behind the cancellations. Poppe shares with us an example of what you could say:

Patient: “Hi, I need to reschedule my appointment that I have today.”

Front Office: “OH NO!!! Is everything okay???” (It is perfectly okay to employ major Catholic guilt at this time!)


If the caller has a legitimate excuse, such as the flu, a death in the family or a true emergency, you can use this as a relationship building opportunity. Show your concern, and even send a card.


If, however, you get a lame excuse (“I accidentally double booked a hair appointment at the same time”), don’t let the caller off the hook.


Front Office: We have two hours scheduled for you today. Is there any way you can keep it?

Patient: Um, well, I just can’t.

Front Office: I understand. I’ll let Dr. Jones know that you had to cancel.


Now this patient is being held accountable for putting a major hole in your schedule, and you can bet it’s okay to mention it at their next appointment. A little guilt can go a long way.


Readers who struggle with cancellations can schedule a free phone consultation with Poppe Practice Management.

Call Smart Market Dental today at 570-742-1840 for your two week free trial and more tips on how to increase your dental practice metrics.



“Do You Take My Insurance?”

Here’s What Your Dental Patients Are Really Asking

The front office staff on the phone with a potential patient.


The Most Common Dental Question You’ll Ever Get

The phone rings.

Patient: “Hi, I’d like to make an appointment. Do you take my insurance?”

Front Office: “We are not in network with XYZ insurance, now please listen as I confuse you with a complicated explanation of how dental insurance works.”

Patient: “Okay, thanks. Bye!”

Sound familiar? It’s the number one question that dental offices deal with, every single day. It’s also the number one reason we find that patients don’t schedule an appointment.

An image of a patient asking the front office staff the dreaded question: Do You Take My Insurance?


How to Answer The Dreaded “Do You Take My Insurance?” Question

Insurance, as a concept, is frustrating and even infuriating for all of us, whether car, medical or homeowners insurance. Dental insurance is an even harder concept to understand because it works so differently from every other kind of insurance. Most patients have little to no knowledge of how their dental plans actually work, much less that they are essentially a pre-paid discount plan. So, rather than spending hours trying to figure it out, they go right to the source – you. And unfortunately, most offices unintentionally bomb the answer.


What Are Your Patients Really Asking?

When a patient asks, “Do you take my Dental Insurance?” that’s rarely the real question. Patients want to know:

  • How much am I going to pay out of pocket?
  • How do you make my care affordable?
  • Can I still come to you if you don’t take my insurance?


We asked Dental Practice Management Consultant Genevieve Poppe, also known as “The New Patient Whisperer” in call coaching circles, how she handles this very common question. Geni shared her simple but highly effective script for our readers to use:



Patient: “Do you take my insurance?”

Front Office: “I’d be happy to check on that for you! Can I get your name?”

This statement implies that we are willing to help the patient with their insurance

Patient: “My name is Marybeth Williams.”



Front Office: “I’m SO GLAD you called our office Marybeth! Now, while I check on your plan, can you tell me what we need to get you in for?”

Patient: “I broke a tooth and it’s very sensitive.”

Front Office: OH NO! Tell me what happened!

Ask open ended questions and employ active listening with appropriate responses.

The more the patient talks, the more you win!



Front Office: “You wanted to know if we take XYZ insurance. We have SO many patients who work at ABC company who come here and they love Dr. Jones!”

Patient: “That’s good to know, my husband loves it there!”



Front Office: “Let’s do this. Let’s get you scheduled with Dr. Jones. I want him to take a look at you and get you out of pain. Insurance is going to play a really minor role in your treatment. But don’t you worry about that, because I know how to get every last penny out of the insurance company and we offer this amazing no-interest financing to make your care affordable. NOW, before I let you go, let me get a little information from you (get address, insurance, etc).


What Have You Got To Lose? Patients, That’s What.

The truth is, most doctors have no idea how many new patients they lose to the insurance question. Without call tracking, it’s impossible to tell. Most dental practice management consultants, including Genevieve Poppe, see call tracking and the use of a new patient intake form as a valuable training tool, whether or not your practice invests in marketing. A simple tracking number on your website will allow you to capture dozens of calls, allowing you to train your team for success.


Don’t let insurance be a barrier to new patients. Challenge your team to adapt their answer to “Do you take my dental insurance” and watch your new patient count increase almost immediately.


Do you have questions about call tracking and training? Call the Smart Market Dental team at 844-296-SMART (7627) for a demo of our advanced call tracking and performance software.