Dental appointment no shows

No shows and cancellations on dental appointments can be downright costly for a dental practice. Just imagine you and your staff have daily morning huddles to organize your whole day around scheduled appointments, preparing for procedures, only to have your schedule balked by a patient who fails to appear. Not only it’s frustrating but expensive as well.

The patient’s no-show rate can vary anywhere from 5 to 30% with some dental offices experiencing more than 50%. While no shows can be inevitable, but they can be certainly avoided by understating our patients and putting a plan in place to get more patients in the chair during their scheduled appointment times thus reducing stress for everyone in the practice. Here are the top three reasons for the no shows on dental appointments and how can we deal with them in order to have a smooth-running practice:


Let’s face it. Dental Care can be expensive! The financial reason is one of the most obvious reason. Despite the dental insurances, some patients avoid showing up due to higher deductibles and out of pocket costs.

Patients need to understand they have a role to play in achieving the dental health outcomes they want. It is the responsibility of a treatment coordinator to make them understand their insurance plans and which care they need versus which care they can delay in a long way will help in attaining deeper trust with patients. You are likely to exhibit that an engaged patient shows up for his appointment on regular basis.

Offering them with options like financing and third-party payment plans helps to alleviate their stress and they are more likely to show up for their appointments.

Lack of awareness

Lack of awareness and education is the second main cause if patients are constantly missing their dental appointments. Some dental offices put cancellation fees in order to prevent this, but I personally do not favor this because we want patients to show up because they understand the importance of their appointment not because they want to save 25 bucks. That’s where education comes in.

It is also a good idea to send education materials while you are sending confirmatory emails and reminders.

When the patient is in chair take time to educate them why it is critical to maintaining their oral health. Use power points, visuals, intraoral cameras to make them understand what you see. Once they get it, they will show up for their appointments.

It is also a good idea to send education materials while you are sending confirmatory emails and reminders. It will make reminders more personal and they will feel valued and will show up for their appointments.


Some people with dental anxiety and dental phobia are just afraid to go the dentists. The thought of just visiting a dentist will be terrifying to them and they will do anything to avoid them which can be the reason for their constant cancellations. It has been estimated that 9-15% of Americans avoid seeing dentists because of anxiety and fear. Also, the patients who do not understand the treatment you are recommending may become afraid and opt to no -show.

The best way to deal with such type of patients is to understand and show empathy towards them. Rather, lecturing the patients, understanding their fears and reassuring them that they are in good hands goes a long way.

It has been estimated that 9-15% of Americans avoid seeing dentists because of anxiety and fear.

Providing them with information that is not only adequate for their level of understanding but also formulated to address their level of understanding can also reduce their fear, for example, some dental offices hire multilingual or different ethnicity front staff especially for the patients who do not have English their first language. Another way is giving them some goody bag or appreciation will make them gain trust and confidence in your services.

The critical element is our ability to adapt to each patient’s style. With the combination of empathy, confidence and meaningful information we can certainly reduce the no show of a patient at our practice.

Rohini Duggal

I am a Toronto based Treatment Coordinator and Internationally trained General Dentist. I have practiced as a General Dentist for 3 years. I graduated with Bachelor of Dental Surgery and additional certification in Healthcare Administration. My passions include helping patients understand better about oral disease and stay updated with the new innovations in the dentistry. I also volunteer for Heat and Stroke foundation. I strive to become a Cosmetic Dentist in future  and establish  my own practice in LA and help my patients to achieve the  smile ever.

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