DENTAL BUSINESS SOLUTIONS
Break the cycle: Your afternoon schedule
doesn’t have to fall apart
Broken appointments are also very costly. By our estimates, just one hygiene cancellation or no-show per day
can cost a practice $25,000 per year. That number does not
include the lost exam fee and potential diagnosis of treatment, which could easily increase the total by tens of
thousands of dollars. Moreover, broken appointments add
to the ever-increasing overhead percentages we’re seeing
in most dental practices today.
The number one reason patients cancel or don’t show
up to a hygiene appointment is value. Most of your patients
wouldn’t dream of missing a hair appointment, a golf tee
time, or even a 3,000-mile oil change. Yet they think hygiene
appointments are no problem to skip.
Avoid devaluing your hygiene appointments by using
The patient will not be any more motivated than then.
phrases such as, “Mrs. Jones, let’s get you scheduled for
your six-month cleaning and checkup.” It is difficult for the
administrative team to defuse a potential cancellation call
when the patient says, “I was just coming in for a cleaning,
wasn’t I?” At the very least, change your verbiage to “your
preventative care” or “professional oral health care.”
Always give the patient a compelling reason to return
for an appointment. “Mrs. Jones, when we see you on June
10 at 8:00 a.m., we will be reviewing those bleeding areas
of active disease and looking to see if there has been any
improvement. Also, we will be monitoring the sensitivity
on those lower right front teeth.”
Reappoint the patient while he or she is still in the chair.
Your practice should have a goal of at least 80% of patients
leaving with another hygiene appointment scheduled.
Does your office have a cancellation or no-show policy?
If so, is it clearly communicated to patients? Do all new
patients sign and receive a copy of it? At a minimum, your
broken appointment acceptance should be 48 hours. Too
many offices have a 24-hour broken appointment policy
that does not allow enough time for the administrative
team to backfill that appointment.
How does the team respond when a patient calls to
cancel an appointment with short notice? Many times we
hear, “That’s OK, Mrs. Jones. When would you like to re-
schedule?” It’s OK to put a little more pressure on patients.
“Oh, no. Mrs. Jones, could you hold the appointment, please?
During your professional oral health care appointment,
Sarah was also going to be seeing you for that area of
sensitivity on your lower right front teeth. Are you experi-
encing any sensitivity to hot or cold?”
Of course, we do not want to create an adversarial
conversation with our patient. However, we do not want
to give the patient permission to let us down. We teach
people how to treat us. We also need to be careful not to
preappoint patients who have let us down two or more
times. We are not suggesting we dismiss these patients;
just consider if they deserve a reserved time in your sched-
ule. Perhaps being placed on a quick-call list would work
better for both parties. First-time offenders should receive
at least a phone call. A second offense warrants a letter
from the office.
How does your office remind patients about their upcoming appointments? There are some very good patient
communication programs available today. I get an e-mail
notice reminding me to click and confirm my upcoming
appointment two weeks ahead of time, then a text reminder
three days out and on the day of my appointment.
To keep your hygiene schedule full, your first step is to
track the number of broken hygiene appointments daily.
Are you averaging two or more per day? Now you have a
metric you and your team can check monthly to track your
progress. Reducing your cancellations is a great way to
build a more stable patient base, increase cash flow, and
lower practice overhead.
Author’s note: For more help with patient
appointments, schedule a free consultation at
a 28-year veteran of the
dental industry, is the
director of North America
dental sales leadership
and development for
Henry Schein Dental. He
teaches dental teams
around the world
techniques to help them
reach their practice
goals. Contact him at
(800) 372-4346 or
Learn more at
has 16 years of
experience in the dental
field. After success as an
office manager, Vanessa
joined Henry Schein
Dental as a practice
development coach. She
now provides coaching
implementation with a
hands-on approach that
increases production and
reduces stress. Visit
com to learn more. For a
free consultation, contact
her at vanessa.
com or (855) 801-1125.
“THE AFTERNOON JUST FELL APART.” It’s a comment we’re hearing more
frequently than ever before. Nothing wreaks havoc on your schedule or increases
stress levels more than cancellations that throw off your schedule.