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Sally McKenzie

CEO of McKenzie Management

Broken appointments holding your practice back? These tips can help.

There’s no doubt broken appointments kill practice production numbers. The day is moving along just fine, then a patient calls to cancel at the last minute and it sends your entire practice into chaos. The Scheduling Coordinator takes to the phones to try to find someone to fill the spot, but usually doesn’t have any luck—making it difficult to meet that day’s production goals. 

Of course broken appointments happen from time to time, but if they’re a weekly or almost daily occurrence in your office, they’re holding the practice back. The good news is, there are steps dentists and their teams can take to reduce the number of last-minute cancellations and no-shows that wreak havoc on their day. Here are my tips to help you make broken appointments a rare occurrence in your practice, rather than the norm. 

Always confirm appointments. The Scheduling Coordinator should reach out to patients to confirm appointments two days in advance. That way, if patients know they can’t make the appointment, they can reschedule and another patient can take their spot. Ask patients if they want to confirm appointments via text, email or telephone, and then use that method to contact them. 

Call no-shows. During these calls, be sure to let patients know you were concerned when they didn’t show up for their appointment. Once you confirm they are OK, take the opportunity to educate patients about the importance of maintaining their oral health and keeping their dental appointments. Then, reschedule the appointment. 

Only pre-appoint your most reliable patients. Many dentists schedule all of their patients six months out. The problem? Patients don’t know what they’ll be doing that far in advance. If something comes up with work or family obligations, that dental appointment will be the first thing they opt to skip. That’s why I suggest only pre-appointing your most reliable patients. Schedule the rest a few months in advance.  

It’s also a good idea to flag patients who are known for flaking out. I’m talking about the patients who have missed at least two appointments. Let these patients know you’ll call them when an opening comes up closer to when they’re due. Trust me, they’ll be much more likely to actually show up. 

Create a list of patients you can call when there are openings. Find out which patients have flexible schedules and are willing to take a spot that opens up at the last minute. I also suggest keeping a list of patients who are interested in an earlier appointment. Turn to these patients first when there’s a last minute-cancellation and you’ll find it’s much easier to fill those production-killing openings. 

Consider extending your hours. Your patients are busy people, which can make it difficult for them to squeeze the dentist in during the 9 to 5 work day. That’s why I suggest offering flexible hours. 

Consider opening the practice early a few days a week and/or staying open late a few days a week. It’s also a good idea to offer Saturday morning hours one or two weeks a month. This gives your patients more scheduling options, making it easier for them to find an appointment time that works for them. Patients appreciate the convenience these hours provide, which helps to promote loyalty and to attract new patients to your practice. It might even lead to referrals. 

Don’t keep patients waiting. If patients know they’re going to wait half an hour or more in your reception area before they see you, they’re more likely to cancel their appointment. They just don’t have that kind of time to waste. 

If long wait times are a problem in your office, take a look at your schedule and make some changes to improve efficiencies. 

Develop a policy. Ask patients to let you know at least two days in advance if they need to cancel. Make sure they understand this allows another patient to see the dentist at that time. Tell new and current patients about the policy, and remind them of it every time they make an appointment. 

Broken appointments do nothing but lead to stress and hurt the practice’s bottom line—holding your practice back from meeting its full potential. Following these tips will help minimize the number of broken appointments you deal with in your office, leading to more productive, stress-free days.



Sally McKenzie is CEO of McKenzie Management,, a full-service, nation-wide dental practice management company. Contact her directly at 877-777-6151 or at

Dental Billing Tips and News for Pros; Edition #139


  • Wonderful tips have used this philosophy for years.

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