Here’s How To Fix Your Cancellations Once And For All.

I’m often asked the question:

“How do we fix the cancellations in our practice?”

It’s a really dumb question….

And that’s because the best way of fixing cancellations is to prevent them in the first place.

My brother [who is not a dentist] once asked me:

“It hurts my tooth when I run my fingernail along the root near the gum line”

To which I responded:

“Well, why don’t you keep your fingernail off your tooth and then it won’t hurt.”

The reason patients cancel their appointments is:

  • They are allowed to
  • They are encouraged to
  • They don’t understand what their upcoming appointment is for [what condition is being fixed or treated]
  • They don’t understand what treatment they are having done at that appointment
  • And they have not had the urgency of the next visit explained to them, and what will happen to them, and their tooth/teeth/gums if they do not have the treatment completed within the time frame recommended.

The general public mostly believe that time has no effect on what goes on inside their mouth.

They nearly all think that the inside of their mouth is like “cleaning out the garage” … and that it can wait until next week, or next month or next year… let’s just close the door and nothing much in there is going to change.

It is our duty as health care providers [as dentists and OHTs, and dental assistants and office staff] to alert patients to the fact that TIME IS THEIR ENEMY when it comes to dentistry, and that everything gets worse the longer we leave it untreated.

And it is the MISSION of everyone in the dental practice to help the patients to understand that delaying treatment creates further damage.

But we have a “Cancellation Policy” ….

Having a “Cancellation Policy” indicates to your patients and to your prospective patients that your practice has an issue with patients changing or cancelling their dental appointments.

Displaying such a policy, on your website or as signage in your practice is not a deterrent… in fact it’s an open admission to the public that your practice has lost control of its appointment book.

You may as well rent a billboard in the main street of town, or run an ad on Facebook heralding that you’ve lost control of your appointment schedule.

How do we fix the problem?

The problem of cancellations begins in the treatment room for existing patients, because the next appointment needs to be discussed and accepted verbally in the treatment room before the patient travels to the front office to schedule.

If the patient has doubt, or indecision, if they haven’t heard it clearly from the dentist or the OHT in the treatment room about what their next step is, it doesn’t matter what the front office team say, the patient hasn’t bought into the next visit because to them it never got said by the dentist, so whatever they’re trying at the front desk to get me to do, never happened.

So the dentist needs to play their part here, and play it well.

And the dentist also needs to know that the patient has completely understood what they have just been told about the next appointment, before the patient leaves the treatment room…and if the patient does not, then the dentist needs to re-clarify what they said to the patient.

Hoping that the patient has heard or understood is not good enough.


Lastly, and most importantly, the practice needs to keep data on cancellations and reschedules.

  • Who took the phone call?
  • What was the reason given for the change in appointment?
  • Who is the treating dentist?
  • Did the patient reschedule, or not?

The thing is we are looking for effects, and for patterns.

How many patients each day are cancelling or rescheduling?

Or failing to attend?

We looked at a client’s data recently and saw that in one month, one dentist averaged one FTA and three cancellations per day. And of those cancellations, just on half of them did not reschedule.

What this means is that every day at that dental practice there are four appointments changed each day, and only 1.5 of those appointments are rescheduled.

If there are on average four changes to the book each day, that means we have on average two hours of dentistry each day needing to be filled with appointments of patients who are called and brought forward…

And sometimes this never happens in a dental practice either….

And that’s because the urgency and concern about the upcoming dental treatment isn’t being reinforced with those patients cancelling, and it also hasn’t been reinforced with those patients being phoned to bring their appointments forwards…

Who is at fault?

Blaming the patients for cancelling, and blaming the front office staff for accepting cancellations is not the answer.

The answer is that when patients understand the consequences of delaying their own treatment, they will do anything in their power to have the treatment done earlier rather than later… because the longer the problem is left untreated, they understand the more extensive the solution will be.

If we don’t…

If we don’t do everything in our power to help our patients have their treatment done earlier rather than later, then as doctors, as physicians, we have let these patients down… because time only makes things get worse and not better.


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For the cost of a less than one cleaning per week, you could have your phones being answered much much better….

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Call Jayne on 1300 378 044 or email  for more details.


Have you read my book , How To Build The Dental Practice of Your Dreams [Without Killing Yourself!] In Less Than Sixty Days.

You can order your copy here: Click Link To Order


The Ultimate Patient Experience is a simple to build complete Customer Service system in itself that I developed that allowed me to create an extraordinary dental office in an ordinary Sydney suburb. If you’d like to know more, ask me about my free special report.

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