I had a dentist ask me this question recently:

“What’s your protocol for when patients fail to attend their appointment?

Does your office call the patient?

Should an SMS be sent out to the patient who fails to attend saying that your office is now cancelling the missed appointment (if the patient doesn’t answer the call)?”

It was a great question, because a lot of dental practices experience these same issues.

But in answering this dentist’s question, the real key to the answer is not what your practice does or says when a patient fails to attend or turns up late…. The real key is identifying the root cause of the issue and fixing the issue at the root cause.

For example, if you discovered that your basement at home had flooded, it would make more sense to find out where the water was coming from and stem the flow [maybe a burst pipe], rather than try mopping up a continuous torrent of water?

So I answered:

“Hi Doctor,

We rarely had this at our office because our patients had valued relationships with our practice.

So if Fail To Attends [FTAs] are a problem in your practice I would be looking at the following factors first before looking at a reaction:

  • Which dentist did the patient see last time?
  • What treatment or procedure was the patient meant to be having at the appointment they failed to attend?
  • If it is a new patient who fails to attend, who took the phone call when the appointment was made, and how did that call go?

Patients fail to keep appointments because they do not understand the urgency of their treatment, and they do not understand what will go wrong when they choose to delay their treatment.

Once your patients all clearly understand these two things, they will attend.

And when you have good long-term patients, these people never fail to attend.”

And then I also added this:

“What we used to do with patients who were late arriving for their appointment is this:

We would phone them at 1 minute past their appointment time and tell them we were calling to see if they were OK, or had they been in an accident…. making sure to talk about them, not about our appointment time…

We never texted until the next day.”

Our concern should always be about the patient’s well-being.

Not about our appointment book.

Lastly, if a patient had an appointment scheduled but had not replied to confirmation SMSs and calls, this is a red flag if it is a newer patient.

It is a red flag that this patient probably will not be attending.

All patients should be aware that they do need to respond to these messages to make sure their appointment is kept for them, and that if they fail to respond before the end of the day prior to their appointment, then that appointment time will be given to another patient.


When your dental practice operates from a position of providing World Class Customer Service, you will find that your practice has very few patients who abuse the relationship with your practice by not keeping appointments.


Dr. David Moffet BDS FPFA CSP is a certified CX Experience coach. David works with his wife Jayne Bandy to help SME businesses improve their Customer Service Systems to create memorable World Class experiences for their valued clients and customers. Click here to find out how David and Jayne can help your business