How to Reduce Cancellations and ‘no shows’ in your Practice

Every dental practice will have appointment cancellations and no-shows. How you minimize and mitigate these circumstances will have a significant impact on your bottomline at the end of the year. Even during good times, broken appointments are not uncommon. The British Dental Assocation studied 600 dental practices and found that ‘the practices had an average of 1,061 missed appointments over the 12 month period

And if something is not done these broken appointments can quickly add up to losses, especially for wholly private dentists.

In order to reduce the likelihood of patients breaking their appointments you must make them understand that the choice to cancel/not show up is the less beneficial choice for them. This begins with proper communication.


The dentist and staff should always maintain a friendly and welcoming attitude when communicating with patients, irrespective of whether it is via a phone call or in person. Patients should be made to feel comfortable, as they would be when in the presence of friends or family. To help in achieving this, you would want to take note of any personal information about the patient, which help you get to know them better. This makes it easier for you to build a genuine rapport with each patient.

Emphasize the Benefits and Possible Risks

One of the main reasons why patients don’t show up for dental appointments is because they do not consider the treatment to be critical, at least not at that particular time. So, it is important that when you discuss with a patient, prior to booking the appointment, you should emphasize the benefits of getting treatment and the possible risks if the treatment is not done. Sometimes, this may require a graphic explanation or case studies, to get the patient to understand the importance of the treatment.

Some patients may fully understand that treatment is important, but they may feel like if the appointment time is not convenient they could simply move it to a later date. For this reason, you should also emphasize the benefits of doing it sooner rather than later.

Educate your Patients

Most patients have no idea the negative effect their cancellations/no-shows has on your dental practice. By educating them on the impact their cancellation has on your schedule and drawing their attention to your cancellation policy, you can make them more sympathetic to your plight. This is a very effective way of getting patients to show up for appointments, because by shariknowing the adverse effect of their actions, they would feel less comfortable cancelling an appointment for the slightest reason.

Anticipate Patient Needs when Scheduling Appointments

Often patients might agree to an appointment without really thinking much about whether they are likely to have another commitment at whether the appointment is really convenient.

You may also have some patients who are not comfortable with something other than the time of the appointment, such as the procedure. Most times, this would be because they are not well educated as to what they should expect. So, taking time to clear any uncertainties would have your patient more likely to look forward to showing up for their appointment.

Have a Cancellation Policy

You should have a policy for handling cancellations and no-shows. If you don’t have one already, now is a good time to develop one. You would need to communicate this policy to both existing and future patients. If patients are made aware of your policy they will be less likely to break appointments. A broken appointment policy might allow you charge a broken appointment fee as a last resort. However, discretion is needed in enforcing such a policy. Perhaps, the fee can be waived for first-time offenders.

Dr. Oza of Advanced Dental Concepts had this to say, “There was a noticeable improvement after we introduced a broken appointments policy. It has reduced our broken appoinments by over 15 percent. I will definitely recommend this to other dentists”.

Always Confirm Appointments

A patient cancelling an appointment is not the worst thing in the world. However, when you are unaware of this cancellation up until the time of the appointment, then it can become a major inconvenience. To help solve this problem you should consider confirming all your appointments on the morning of the appointment. This would allow you to have advance notice of cancellations and adjust your schedule accordingly.