Reducing Cancellations in Your Dental Practice

Dental teams work hard to create schedules that are both productive and efficient. One of the biggest points of frustration in dental practices is to see a productive and efficient schedule fall apart due to last minute cancellations. Sometimes the reasons are unavoidable due to weather conditions or cold and flu season; however many times last minute cancellations occur because the precedent has been unknowingly set that cancellations are acceptable.

On average, dental teams provide great customer service by catering to the needs of their patients. This catering also extends to scheduling. Dental teams typically make it very easy for patients to cancel their appointments without giving proper notice and then get right back in the schedule. Consider the message this sends to your patients.


When your patients are confronted with the need to free up time in their schedules or they just simply want to do something else instead of going to the dentist, they know they can call and cancel because it’s “just a dental visit.” Patients know you will reschedule them promptly and with a smile, usually for the same week. It’s just as easy as hitting the snooze button on the alarm.

How do you put a stop to this without becoming a tyrant? Stop making it so easy to reschedule.

If patients are not ill or facing another legitimate challenge, make them wait several weeks or a month to get back in the schedule. Even if you have twenty openings, do not reschedule the patient right away unless they have an acute issue. Practices commonly report when you make people wait they often keep their appointments.

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Next, remove the word “cancel” from your vocabulary. Do not set the expectation when you schedule or confirm that the appointment is optional. Build value for the dental visit, reminding patients you have reserved the time just for them.

You can effectively reduce cancellations by retraining your patients. Although it takes time and effort, the net result is much more rewarding than having to consistently rebuild your schedule.

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