Practice analytics, practice insights, measuring success

Filling Your 4th Quarter Hygiene Holes

Dental Intelligence has recently completed a comprehensive analysis of over 8,000 U.S.-based dental practices’ 4th quarter 2020 hygiene schedules and has discovered a disaster waiting to happen. In most instances, we saw few if any hygiene appointments currently on the schedules of the practices we analyzed. With so much focus on the heavy volume coming through practice doors right now, it’s not at all surprising that no one is thinking about what’s (not) scheduled 2-3 months from now. But that needs to change, and soon.

Here’s why – virtually all of those patients that were scheduled to come in during March, April, and May got bumped, right? Perhaps you’ve been able to see a portion of them in the past few weeks, but many more have yet to reschedule. With most patients on a six-month hygiene appointment pattern, this likely means that you have very few if any patients scheduled to come in during 4th Q 2020. So, unless you are one of the few practices in the country thinking about anything but surviving the next week (i.e. fewer patients coming in, longer appointments, PPE for team members and patients, infection control, contactless payments, etc.) this looming but unseen issue could become a huge problem come late September, October, and November. And waiting until “later” to do something about this could have serious repercussions on the health of your practice and patients far into the future.

Here’s what the 4th Quarter of 2020 currently looks like, based on our analysis:


This makes perfect sense when you think about it. Most patients that came in for hygiene in January were scheduled for their next appointment in July, those coming in February scheduled in August, and those coming in March were…. that’s the problem right there, isn’t it? From the 2nd half of March into at least the month of May, no patients were coming in because their dentist wasn’t practicing. This means all those appointments had to be canceled or rescheduled, which is why your current September, October, and November hygiene schedules are likely almost empty. Here’s another way to put it – normally you would have 15-20% of your 4th quarter schedule unfilled at this point in the year. However, in 2020 it’s the exact opposite – most practice hygiene schedules are still 80% unfilled, or worse.

Screen Shot 2020-08-05 at 3.37.55 PM

But here’s the good news. This is a problem you can do something about. No one wants to go through a repeat of the shutdown, obviously. The graphic above tells us that unless action is taken, there’s a good chance that will happen unless attention is paid now to this pending “production pandemic.” Practices had no control over the shutdown and very little warning before it happened. This situation is different. You can look ahead to see a potential problem and you can take action now to prevent that problem from happening.

Let’s look briefly at the math. In fact, we can use an actual high-performing practice to show that no one is immune to this problem. Sullivan Dental Partners in Tennessee recently had two of its best months ever. June and July 2020 were phenomenal by every measurement. In June alone Sullivan saw over $400,000 in production. Incredible, right? If you were to look at Sullivan’s current hygiene schedule through mid-September, you would see $3,000-$4,000 in average daily scheduled hygiene production – some truly fantastic success. But now let’s take a look at their October hygiene schedule:

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See the problem? Their November schedule looks very similar. Again, this is at a practice that just had a $400,000+ month. The numbers don’t lie. If your practice’s current October/November hygiene schedules look anything like Sullivan Dental’s (Hint: they do) then attention must be paid, and soon.

Here’s what a customer just shared with us as we looked together at their 4th Q hygiene schedule: “That’s an oversight that I had not thought about that would have cost us $600,000! We normally see 1604 patients in October and only have 27 on the books right now.” If your 4th Q schedule is anything like this practice’s schedule, your losses could be similar. 2020 has been a financially difficult year for many dental practices. Dealing with a huge shortfall in your fall schedule is the last thing you need. Happily, unlike a global pandemic, this is a problem you can do something about.


Let’s use the following as a typical scenario to explore possible solutions to this schedule shortfall. For this example, our practice has one dentist and two hygienists. On average they complete around 250 hygiene appointments each month. Doing some simple math, we can quickly determine how many hygiene patients per hygienist this practice still needs to schedule in order to equal their monthly average. Using 250 as our average, if this practice had 80% of their calendar filled for September, they would only need another 50 appointments to hit their monthly average. However, if they only have 15% of their schedule currently booked, they need to schedule over 200 additional appointments for September in the next few weeks in order to hit that monthly average – a huge number! Add October and November to the mix and this practice would need almost 400 additional appointments added to their schedule.

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In summary:

  • You’ve got some significant holes in your Fall 2020 hygiene schedule related to the COVID-19 shutdown. In normal times, your fall schedule would be 80% or more filled. In 2020, the opposite is true. Most practices are only at 15-20% of capacity in September-November right now.
  • There are a number of different ways you can resolve this problem. The goal is to identify the most effective, least expensive option that doesn’t require your team to spend thousands of hours on the phone. Online scheduling is the answer.

No one likes to feel like they are unable to resolve a problem. That’s one reason so many of us felt anxious back in March – it seemed like there wasn’t anything we could do. Now things have changed. We know more about protecting ourselves and our patients, and we also can see ahead and make changes now in order to change future outcomes.

At Dental Intelligence, this is what we care most about – helping dental practices to provide more and better dentistry. We’d love to help you. Give us thirteen minutes to show you how we’re helping thousands of practices like yours fill their 4th quarter hygiene schedule…and so much more! 2020 can still be a year you WANT to remember 😀


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