How Many Active Dental Patients Do You Really Need?

We all want a successful practice, but many of us fail to understand what exactly drives it. It’s important for every dentist to comprehend precisely what makes their practice prosper. The truth is, your patients are the reason for this triumph and keeping track of the number of active patients in your dental practice is essential to your business.


Just What Are Considered “Active Patients” in a Dental Practice?

Glad you asked. Your active patient count is the number of individuals seen in your practice during a specified period of time. Although this number varies, the duration defining your active patient count typically is patients seen anywhere from 12 to 18 months prior.

Variation comes from how you define who is seen versus why they were seen and what type of procedure was done. However, we recommend that you count any patient seen for any reason. After all, your active patient count represents current and future cash flow from your business.


“It takes the average practice seven years to reach 1500 active patients”


The idea behind this number is that it entails success. If you have patients who continuously come back to receive and pay for services, you are ahead of the game and don’t have to invest as much in generating new patients each month.


What is the ideal average dentist to patient ratio?

1500 is the limit. This means there should be at least one dentist per 1500 patients, assuming you’re working a 5-day week. How many patients does a typical dental hygienist see per day? A hygienist working two hygiene rooms with a hygiene assistant will see about 12 patients per day. Of your overall patients, active patients will generally make two hygiene visits per year.

Therefore, every active patient will be seen every 24 weeks on average. Hypothetically, if your hygienist works five days a week and sees 12 patients per day, they will see sixty patients per week. Multiply those 60 patients per week by 24 weeks, and you get 1440 patients. This means that the ideal combination is 1500 active patients: one dentist with two treatment rooms, one hygienist and one hygiene assistant with two treatment rooms.

Confusing? Smart Market Dental provides metrics of both your total patient visits per provider, and total active patients to make your life just a little bit easier. By pinning those KPI’s to your customizable dashboard, you can quickly monitor your progress.


What if I have more than 1500 active patients in my one-doctor practice?

It sounds backwards, but doctors who try to see more patients in the same amount of time, find a decrease in the average annual billing per patient. So, you’re working harder for the same – or less – revenue.

Let’s put it like this… The more patients a doctor has on their schedule, the less time and attention you have for your patients. This also increases the number of hygiene patients to check, which gives doctors even less time to see restorative patients. If you find yourself with too many patients, either hire an associate, drop a low-paying insurance, or raise your fees!


How to measure your active patient count

You have to know your numbers before you can improve them. Here’s how to measure your active dental patient count.

  • Start by running a procedure analysis report for the past 12 to 18 months
  • Calculate the number of cleanings your practice completed and divide that number in half.
  • Make sure the total accounts for the number of hygienists and dentists in your practice, as well as the number of days per week you work – about 300 active patients per days worked each week.


How do you keep this number high?

Active patients require an active effort from your team. Here are a few ways to boost your numbers.

  1. Preschedule. Preschedule. Preschedule. It is important for your office staff to prompt patients to preschedule their next appointment. Don’t remove the bib until you have a date on the schedule!
  2. Offer Financing: Patients will accept care that they can afford, not just care that they need. Offering low interest financing terms can dramatically improve case acceptance, and thus your average production.
  3. Too Few Visits: If you have 1500+ active patients in the practice but are not seeing enough patients a day, it’s often the result of poor scheduling. Invest in training for the front desk on how to tighten up your schedule so time is used efficiently and you’ll watch your patient visits steadily increase.


Curious about your numbers?

Visit Smart Market Dental for a two week free trial to see where you are and how you can prove it.