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.




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.


If you’re like most dentists, new patients are the lifeblood of your practice. Which also means that you’re probably no stranger to dental marketing. When you invest in a website, postcard, or even internal marketing, you want it to work. The real question is, how do you know if your marketing really worked? Until you have clear, measurable data, it’s all just a guess.

Smart Market Dental takes the guesswork out of your marketing plans. Use a unique tracking phone number on each marketing piece and you’ll soon discover how many calls that website or postcard really generated. More importantly, call screening reveals why those calls aren’t becoming patients. Nationally, only 34% of all new patient calls result in an appointment. We’ll tell you why. Are callers receiving voicemail and simply hanging up? Does your front desk need training on how to answer the dreaded insurance question? Is a campaign simply not making the phone ring in the first place? Smart Market Dental answers those questions and more, allowing you to maximize your marketing’s performance.

Sync Smart Market Dental with your practice management software, and our automated ROI analysis will tell you what marketing is producing the best results, with the lowest cost per new patient and the highest return on investment.

Combined with the experienced interpretation of our marketing analysts, your marketing will get stronger and smarter, bringing you more new patients and increasing your revenue. It’s simply a smarter way to market your dental practice.