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A game plan for empty chair time

May 22, 2017
No dentists like empty chair time. It's a problem most dental practices face at one time or another. The Principles of Practice Mangement conference, hosted by Dental Economics, will help dentists tackle this problem and more.
Chris Salierno, DDS, Chief Editor, Dental Economics

(Click on the image for conference and registration information)

This article originally appeared in the Principles of Practice Management e-newsletter. Subscribe to the twice monthly ENL here.

We all hate to see holes in our schedules. Sitting in our back offices, we contemplate how much money we’re losing by not providing care at that given moment. While the occasional empty chair is unavoidable, some of us are experiencing an actual slowdown of our practices.

According to ADA research, approximately one third of dentists report that they aren’t busy enough. This is a complex phenomenon and it can be partially explained by an increase in the supply of dentists and a flattening demand by adults for our services. The pages of Dental Economics are filled with strategies to tackle this problem, and I’d like to summarize them here.

(1) Attract more patients
Perhaps the most obvious strategy for filling an empty chair is to increase your new patients. A typical general practice looks to bring in between 20 and 30 new patients per month. If you’re falling short of that goal, evaluate which external marketing strategies might be a good fit for your practice.

(2) Reactivate inactive patients
If patients have not visited your office in over 18 months, then they are not considered active patients. You already have their contact information and a relationship with them, so find innovative and compassionate ways to welcome them back for preventive care.

(3) Increase the scope of care
Offer new services to your existing patient population. Sleep apnea and dental implantology can be marketed to attract new patients, but these services can also be broadcast through internal marketing channels for existing patients.

(4) Improve profitability
Implement better controls on office overhead so that you can increase your net revenue even without doing more dentistry.

Which of these strategies are right for your practice? Where do you even begin? What we need is a game plan. If you’re looking for help to put this all together, we can do it with you at DE’s Principles of Practice Management Conference in Charlotte this July. We’ll roll up our sleeves and figure out the best way to fill your schedule.



About the Author

Chris Salierno, DDS | Chief Editor, Dental Economics

Chris Salierno, DDS, is the chief editor of Dental Economics and the editorial director of the Principles of Practice Management and Group Practice and DSO Digest e-newsletters. He is also a contributing author for DentistryIQ and Perio-Implant Advisory. He lectures and writes about practice management and clinical dentistry. He maintains a blog to answer patient questions at ToothQuest. Dr. Salierno maintains a private general practice in Melville, New York. You may contact him at [email protected].

Updated Dec. 4, 2020