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    12 tips to get patients to keep their preventive appointments

    Most patients don’t keep up with their preventive visits, which is why it’s crucial that your recall system is rock solid.

    Patients may know they need their preventive dental appointments, but life and its circumstances often get in the way. So, how can you get your patients to keep their recall appointments?

    “We believe that proper communication is the backbone for recalling any patient,” says Dr. Ameerzeb Pirzada, CEO and a consultant dentist at Z Dental Studio in Islamabad, Pakistan. “Our studies have shown that a pleasant personality and a genuine desire to make everyone happy is one way to bring patients back for a recall.”

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    Instead of asking patients closed-ended questions such as “Would you like to schedule your next appointment?” Z Dental Studio uses affirmative language like “Your next appointment will be in August, and we can schedule you and send you a reminder card.” Most patients don’t keep up with their preventive visits, which is why it’s crucial that your recall system is rock solid. There are a variety of ways to go about it.  

    Here are 12 strategies to get patients to keep their preventive appointments:

    1. Schedule patients while they’re in the office.

    “We find this works really well,” says Victoria Veytman, DDS, of Cosmetic Dental Studios in New York City. Dr. Veytman’s office also sends newsletters about dental health and the importance of preventive visits that hopefully work to remind patients how important this appointment is, not to take it lightly and to keep their scheduled visits.

    2. Make patient appointments six months in advance.

    “Our patients appreciate making the next six-month recare appointment with our hygienist while they are here,” says M.H. Peters, Jr., DDS, of Peters Dental Associates in Houston, Texas. “For the few patients that are not able to schedule that far ahead due to work/school schedules, we personally call to remind them one month prior to their due date.”

    3. Use reminder calls, texts and automated messages.

    When the appointment time gets closer, the staff at Peters Dental Associates sends patients reminder texts, emails and/or automated phone messages. “About 95 percent confirm through the automated system,” Dr. Peters explains. But for those who don’t, calls and texts come in handy to keep patients abreast of their appointments.

    4. Send postcards.

    “Our usual protocol is sending out postcards three to four weeks prior to the recall. Not only is this a reminder, but it gives patients time to reschedule if necessary,” Dr. Pirzada says. Postcards have been a popular preventive dental recall technique for decades. What’s changed is the way they can be implemented, including when they should be sent for maximum effectiveness, what they should look like and the information they should contain to remind patients what they’re coming in for, how long it might take and who they are going to see.

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    5. Make follow-up calls.

    Z Dental Studios utilizes hygienists to make follow-up calls before recall visits. Hygienists research each patient and have the patient’s chart in front of them to know what kind of treatment he or she has had or need so any questions or concerns can be addressed. “Again, our hygienists maintain perfect communication because we believe that good correspondence is the backbone for a successful revisit,” Dr. Pirzada says.

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