Patient Loyalty: The Foundation to Dental Practice Growth

May 26, 2022 | 3 min read

Many new dental practices make the mistake of focusing their resources on patient acquisition and not enough on keeping the patients they already have. 

However, developing patient relationships and boosting your patient retention rate is the key to building a profitable and sustainable dental practice.

The Importance of Dental Patient Retention: Let’s Do the Math

For example, a new dental practice acquires an average of 30 new patients per month for 12 months. That means 360 new patients in a year. Then, it has a patient attrition rate of 15% to 20%, which is typical for a new practice.

If we assume a 20% attrition rate, you’d be losing about 6 patients out of 30 each month, adding up to 72 patients in a year. That leaves you 288 repeat patients.

Now, let’s look at the revenue of repeat patients, assuming that they return for hygiene procedures every 6 months. This number is conservative since existing patients are more likely to undergo higher-value procedures and, therefore, have higher production value.

If we assume a repeat revenue of $125 for a hygiene appointment, then the total income from repeat patients will be $36,000 per year ($125 x 288.) But what about the lost patients? They add up to $9,000 of lost revenue opportunity. 

Next, let’s look at the amount you’d spend on acquiring new patients. 

Experts calculate that the marketing cost ranges from $50 to $300 per acquired patient for most dental practices. Even if we take the lowest acquisition cost of $50 and multiply it by 72 (i.e., the number of patients lost), you’d spend $3,6000 to replace the lost patients without any growth.

By losing 20% of your existing patients, you’d lose $9,000 worth of production (assuming they only come back for hygiene appointments and not higher-value procedures) plus $3,600 on marketing to replace them.

The cost adds up quickly, doesn’t it? But there’s more…

Let’s consider the numbers in terms of a dental patient's lifetime value (LTV.) Assuming a conservative estimate of $1,000 LTV per patient, 72 patients translate into $72,000 lost revenue. If you ignore patient retention for multiple years, the number will keep increasing.

How To Retain More Dental Patients

Besides the best care, you must deliver an outstanding patient experience to keep people coming back to your practice. Understanding the entire patient lifecycle and leveraging various touchpoints pre- and post-visit to nurture relationships and stay top of mind is critical to ongoing success.

Send automated email or text reminders to patients about their recare appointments and include a link to your online booking tool so patients can easily schedule their visits.
Allow patients to fill out e-forms online before their appointments to reduce wait time, streamline the experience, and minimize frustrating errors and delays.
Use an advanced electronic health record (EHR) software with interactive charts to improve patient communication and explain treatment options during visits.
Offer membership plans to attract and retain patients without group insurance coverage and add teledentistry to make it easy for existing patients to get care.
Use dental practice management software to automatically scan for incomplete treatments and send reminders to patients to maximize revenue opportunities.

The Bottom Line

Patient retention is critical for achieving sustainable growth and profitability for any dental practice, especially new ones with limited resources for marketing. 

An improvement of just 5% to 10% of the 20% attrition rate can add up to substantial returns and strong growth over a few years. Therefore, the best investment you can make right now is implementing the right tools to improve the patient experience throughout the patient lifecycle.

 tab32 is a cloud dental software designed to support a patient-first, data-driven approach to care delivery. Request a demo to see our robust features in action.Book a demo now!

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