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5 ways to reactivate inactive patients


When it comes to losing patients, don't wait, reactivate!

There’s a saying that’s often used when it comes customers and clients: “Out of sight, out of mind.” It sounds harsh, but it’s true. When someone hasn’t seen or heard from you in awhile, they can forget you and move on. In the past, the loss of patients could be easily overcome by a higher influx of new patients.

But in order for today’s dental practices to remain strong, they need to retain a higher level of their patient base. When patients become overdue or inactive don’t write them off as lost - implement a reactivation system.

The reactivation system

Any patient who has not been to the practice within 18 months is considered an inactive patient. This designation has true meaning. When a practice goes through a valuation process for a potential sale, inactive patients do not count as part of the practice or contribute to its value.

An inactive patient also has a conceptual meaning. In a sense, the practice is reaching the point where the patient may never come back. If the average lifetime value of a dental patient is in the range of $12,000-$15,000, then the loss of even one patient is a serious event. In addition, patient losses are compounded by the fact that they can also be accompanied by the loss of their family members, resulting in two or more inactive patients.

Related article: 5 reasons to collect patient email addresses

This is why a reactivation system is so important. The first stage is the ongoing effort to prevent active patients from becoming inactive. Always demonstrate caring and compassion, keep all patients scheduled by having a multi-step program to contact overdue patients and motivate patients to be active in their preventive care.

The second stage involves the action taken the moment it is confirmed that a patient is inactive. It’s not as simple as sending an email or a text and having the patient suddenly call the practice and reactivate. It is a practice system that relies on relationships and outreach. Take the following steps to reactivate inactive patients:

  • Contact the patient, preferably using their cell phone number, and use a scripted message demonstrating the 3 C’s: caring, concern and compassion.

  • Repeat this call using progressive scripting three times with two-week intervals between each call.

  • Next, send emails that talk about the benefits of preventive care, express the practice’s concern that the patient is overdue for an appointment and encourage them to call the practice and make an appointment. Three emails should be sent three weeks apart with progressive information to encourage the patient to return to the practice.

  • Finally, send a positive hard copy letter to the patient mentioning you’ve attempted to reach them, re-expressing concerns over them not having regular preventive care and welcoming them back to the practice at any time.

  • When a family member of the inactive patient comes in, offer to make an appointment for their family member(s).


Some patients become inactive and remain that way due to a variety of reasons (e.g., moving, insurance changes, etc.) you can’t control. However, there are a large number of patients who have just dropped out of regular preventive care and need to be motivated to reengage with the practice. You can’t afford to forget them or allow them to forget you. The above steps will help bring many inactive patients back to active status.

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