How to Retain More Dental Patients

Wouldn’t it be great if the only reason your practice ever lost a patient was because they either moved away or died?

But patients do leave your practice sometimes for other reasons, sometimes more than we care to think about.  Sometimes there is nothing we can do about it (“it’s not us, it’s them”).  But sometimes the departure was preventable.

 So why are your patients leaving?

Could it be your reputation?

Your best new patients come from word of mouth.  But according to,  
if you disappoint your most loyal patients, they are 26% more likely to tell the world about their bad experience in face-to-face conversations, on social media, and by text.  “Hell hath no fury like a Champion [your loyal patient] scorned!”  

As evidenced by the “United Breaks Guitars” song, a protest song with over 14 million views created by a disgruntled airline passenger, we are all one viral video away from reputation humiliation! 

Did their insurance change?

With the massive changes in the American healthcare system, patient benefits and insurance companies are changing all the time.  Due to the medical insurance establishment, many patients truly believe they can’t have you as a dentist if you aren’t in network with their insurance.  Discount plans, patient loyalty programs, regular communication, and developing a personal bond will all help you rise above the “I just go to my dentist because they take my insurance” no-win zone.   

Are patients returning after restorative work is completed?

In our business, we hear many practices tell us that it’s common for patients to receive major restorative work and then go AWOL for years… until the restoration has a problem.  The patient shows up saying “Here I am, fix my crown, that’s going to be free, right?”  We’ve seen practices prevent this by setting expectations by using their warranty policy (which stays active if the patient returns for recare) to initiate a conversation about the patient’s responsibility is to return regularly.  

Are you listening to your patients?


If I’m telling you what I want and I don’t believe you are paying attention or understanding me, your treatment recommendations lose their power.  How can I trust them?  You don’t know what I want, so your recommendations must be more about what you want… right?  I may feel too awkward to ask you to listen closely this time as I explain my goals again.  Did you even ask me what my goals are, or did you assume? I may not feel comfortable telling a medical professional that I am unsure because I don’t know if my desires and yours are aligned.  So I nod my head, politely agree with you, avoid scheduling treatment, and then slip away for good.  It pays to truly listen.  

Were patients lured away by a competitor?

Valpak, Groupon, postcards, billboards, newspaper inserts, Money Mailer, door flyers.  Free whitening, $29 dollar exam and x-rays, $200 crown, free consultation, trip to Hawaii, you name it – there is no shortage of bait in the water luring your patients to foreign waters!  Is a low price the only thing keeping your patients around?  Do you know what sets you apart from the other dentists in your area?  Your patients do.  It might be worth asking some questions to those patients you trust to figure out what to do more of. 

Do patients have a compelling reason to return?

photo of asian young woman sitting at the dentist while smiling towards the camera

If it’s for treatment, maybe they need a gentle reminder and an explanation on why the procedure will help them accomplish their health goals.

If it’s been awhile since you’ve seen a patient (are you tracking that?) maybe it’s time for a personal phone call or email.

Consider Dental Warranty as a loyalty building tool.   It only makes sense that patients with a reason to return (keeping their coverage active for example) are more likely to return! 


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