How to Handle No-Shows and Cancellations at Your Dental Practice

empty dental office

If there’s one thing dental school may not have prepared you for, it’s how to handle no-shows and cancellations at your dental practice. One study even shows this often happens at student clinics or newly opened practices, slowing growth by as much as 50% in the first three years. Not only does the business suffer financial loss, but there’s a missed opportunity to provide dental care, which could lead to more dental emergencies down the road. Here’s how to do your best to eliminate the potential thousands of dollars in lost revenue every year caused by no-shows and cancellations.

Put technology to work

Lean on your management software to remind patients of their upcoming appointments by phone, email or text communication. Make sure patients have the option to choose which option works best for them so the reminder actually resonates with them. Giving at least three days’ notice gives them a chance to check their calendars and reschedule if necessary with more than 24 hours’ notice.

Mind the gap

Rather than accepting the loss, there are ways to fill the holes left by patient cancellations. Sure, you can start calling around to find someone to take the appointment, but last-minute cancellations or no-shows make that an impossible task. However, one way to narrow down the list is to ask when scheduling, “If we can accommodate you sooner, would you like for me to call you?” Consider rewarding those with flexible schedules with an incentive off services that day.

Educate patients

It’s easy enough with routine visits to go through the motions and assume the patient knows what’s going on inside their mouths. But a patient who is not invested in the preventative treatment taking place is more likely to blow off an upcoming appointment. Instead, use the appointment to educate them about what happens at every visit by showing them any images you take, for starters. If they understand the importance of keeping their dental appointments, they will likely show up.

Welcome new patients

Take the extra step or two to welcome new patients to your dental practice. That can be a personal phone call to answer any questions before their first appointment or a welcome packet answering any FAQs beforehand. It’s a friendly gesture that also establishes a connection with a new patient.

Establish a policy

Decide with your team what would work best for your patient base. Whether it’s 24 or 48 hours’ notice, you’ll want to put it in writing and make sure patients are aware of the change. Consider even taking a credit card on file for this scenario. Whatever you choose, you’ll want to ensure everyone is on the same page and that the rule is enforced for canceled or changed appointments.

Show compassion

Above all, understand that life happens and you’ll never fully be able to eliminate broken appointments. However, if there’s a pattern among certain patients, it’s okay to take measures into your own hands or even cut ties with them entirely if it’s affecting your bottom line.

What’s next?

Tackling no-shows and cancellations head-on is just one of many steps you can take to keep your dental practice profitable. Contact the experts at Professional Transition Strategies to learn more ways to grow and scale your business.