Dental Management Survey: How Do You Handle Missed Appointments?

Charging for missed dental apointmentsWhen patients miss appointments, it affects dental practice revenue.

If it happens too often, it can turn into a dental practice management nightmare.

“In this day and age with e-mail, texting, cell phones, answering machines, Smile Reminders, etc., etc. There is no excuse for people to not show up for their dental or medical appointments or call to let the offices know they are running late or can’t make it. Its just pure laziness or lack of common courtesy.” Ohio prosthodontist

There are practice management tactics dentists can use to keep this problem from getting out of hand and ruining their practice. But do dentists use them?

In this dental survey, we report on how dentists handle patients who don’t show up.

Fees for missing dental appointments

When asked if they charge patients for missed appointments, 67% of our survey respondents said Yes – 28% charge a fee after the second missed appointment; 39% after the third miss.

One-third of our surveyed dentists said they don’t charge a penalty fee at all.

Chart: Do dentists charge for missed appointments?

Dentists charged patients between $25 and $100 for missing an appointment, with a $50 fee the most common.

“Our policy is a $50.00 no show charge after your 3rd no show appointment. We have done this only a few times. In the past when we tried it our patients threw a fit and a lot of times the charge was removed. How do we know if patient has a real emergency or creates an excuse? We try to emphasis that these are important appointments.” Missouri dentist

“We tried have chronic offenders pay a $50 booking fee before scheduling, this would be applied to the day’s fees or forfeited if the patient failed to show up. However the front desk staff was not consistent in enforcing it ON THE SAME PATIENT!!!” North Carolina dentist

Letting go of patients who miss too many dental appointments

Dentists don’t like to lose patients, under any circumstance.

But 68% of dentists in our survey said they will ‘fire’ patients who miss too many appointment: 5% after a patient misses 2 appointments; 37% after 3 misses; and 26% only after 4 or more misses.

Some dentists said they will never ‘fire’ a patient (5%), and 27% said it rarely, if ever, happens.

Chart: Do dentists 'fire' patients who miss appointments?

“Try to dismiss patient after 2 no-shows, but the situation can vary depending on the particular relationship of the patient with the practice.” Canadian dentist

“I’d really love to find something that works– While most of our patients come regularly, it seems that in the past years, it is more challenging to keep patients compliant with appointments. If we charge, we just get patients mad and they leave with the charge on the books.” California dentist

“Although I don’t charge or fire patients for missed appointments it seems to be a repeating problem and I lose a lot of potential income; and the time can never be recouped.” Texas pediatric dentist

Here are a few dental management policy recommendations that are working:

“We try to figure out what’s getting in the way of their keeping [appointments], and if problems continue, we either put them on a “quick call” list, have them financially guarantee a reserved appt, or dismiss them.” New Hampshire dentist

“It is difficult to collect missed appointment fees. We just give them 3 chances and then will not make another appointment unless there is one available the day they call. If they miss one of those, they are fired for good.” Texas dentist

“If you charge them, they will walk rather than pay. So for unreliable patients, demand a “deposit” before putting them on the books. Tell them they will forfeit it if they miss, and have to pay another deposit. I have never had a patient miss an appointment when they had a $75 deposit on the line.” Georgia general dentist

“A missed appointment cannot be rescheduled within 2 weeks of the rescheduling call. This serves as a reminder that missing an appointment does affect other people besides the patient, allows time to schedule other patients in more convenient time slots and serves as a minor ‘penalty’ for missed appointments. If a patient misses 2-3 appointments, they are not permitted to schedule further than 1 day in advance to limit the amount of forgetting appointments. Patients missing further appointments are dismissed from the practice at the doctor’s discretion.” Indiana dentist

“We charge the people that we want to leave the practice.” Minnesota dentist

What’s your dental practice management policy for patients who miss appointments?


About Jim Du Molin

+Jim Du Molin is a leading Internet marketing expert for dentists in North America. He has helped hundreds of doctors make more money in their practices using his proven Internet marketing techniques.

  • Normank426

    I have patients sign a our policy regarding broken appointments and tardiness. The are charged $50.00. The ones that throw a fit are shown the signed policy. These are legal and binding documents and I would imagine completely enforceable in a court of law. I would also imagine that patients that don’t show up after hitting the confirm button on electronic reminders have broken a contract. Perhaps this will pop up in the future. Who knows? I have had several people thinking that they were clever telling us that since they did not hit the confirm button that they were off the hook.

  • girard hagen

    can you charge a Medicaid patient for a missed appointment?

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