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Improve Your Dental Recall Strategy

dental recall strategy

Did you know that the average new patient retention across dental offices is 41%? A patient recall system can make or break your practice.

This is why your dental recall strategy should be a top priority. In this article, we’ll discuss effective ways to improve your recall strategy. But, before we dive in, let’s define dental recall.

What is a dental recall?

The purpose of recall in any medical practice is patient retention. Continuing care with patients is essential to keeping your practice alive. Thus, your dental recall strategy is the lifeblood of your clinic.

What’s a dental recall system?

The objective of a dental recall system is to minimize patient “no-show” rates, and provide post-operative care, and patient feedback.  A successful retention system enables patient communication through various channels. These channels might include emails, text messages, or phone calls.

Why a dental recall strategy is essential

Patient retention efforts are often ignored because they require time, resources, and strategizing. However, they’re one of the best ways to attract and keep loyal patients. Existing patients are the greatest asset to your practice. So, keeping them coming back will result in profitability and growth.

Communication skills

Dentists are hired for their knowledge and technical skills rather than their ability to communicate. For this reason, it makes sense that interpersonal skills aren’t a top priority at many dental offices.

But, being able to communicate effectively is critical to retaining patients. Eye contact and listening are two of the most important aspects of communication.

Eye contact

When you engage your patient with eye contact, you let them know that you care about their health. Maintaining eye contact also shows where your attention is. 

Conversely, diverting your gaze while the patient speaks may make you appear dismissive. And in turn, it can make the patient uncomfortable. This is why having good communication as part of your dental recall strategy is essential to securing loyal patients.


Patients want to feel heard. They want to know that their concerns are taken seriously. So, when you interject while they’re trying to explain their issue, they can begin to feel invalidated. You should wait to respond until they’re done speaking. This will build trust and show them you care.

In a busy practice, waiting for the patient to finish talking can be difficult. But, rushing patients through their concerns impacts retention rates.

In addition to eye contact and listening, you should also encourage the patient to return.

“You’re all good”

It’s always nice when you can give a patient good news. But, saying “everything looks great here” or “you’re good to go now” can actually hurt your recall rates. While hearing that there aren’t any problems will leave your patient happy, it can prevent them from coming back.

Instead, at the end of their visit, you should point out potential trouble spots for them to monitor. This will increase the chance of them returning for their next routine check-up.

A strong patient recall system promotes dental visits being prevention-oriented rather than problem-oriented.

dental recall appointments

Mode of communication

Dental recall cards won’t be as effective for your younger patients. This is because we live in a world where Instagram is the new postcard and text messages are the new phone calls.

So, it’s to your benefit to ask your patients what their preferred mode of communication is.


Segmenting your patients by the way they like to be reached is a key step in your dental recall strategy. Many Millennials and Gen Z’s will likely be more receptive to social media and text messaging. On the other hand, Baby Boomers and Gen X’s may prefer emails and postcards.

Social media

A social media account will enable constant connection with your patients. You can capture their attention when you pop up in their newsfeed.

Here are a few ways to engage your patients via social media:

  1.  Share your blogs with links to your website. Your blogs can discuss oral hygiene and highlight the importance of regular check-ups.
  2.  Post useful content to help your patients stay educated and keep your brand front of mind.
  3.  Share your earned media, like patient testimonials, to show social proof.

Text messaging

Texting might not be the preferred communication for all your patients. But, data shows that it has the most successful response rates compared to other methods of communication. So, it’s vital to incorporate text messaging into your dental recall strategy.

Sending text messages is great for appointment reminders and last-minute schedule openings. Using texts for promotional content may appear “spammy.” It is recommended that you customize messages to be sent for each of your patients. Including their first name makes the message feel personal.

Whatever mode of communication you use, it’s important to know the best times to reach out.

Best times to reach out

The optimal time for reaching out to patients can vary based on the individual. But, generally speaking, there are recommended sweet spots for achieving higher response rates.

  1. Send emails on a Tuesday, Wednesday, or Thursday between 10:00 AM and 1:00 PM.
  2. Make phone calls on Wednesdays or Thursdays between 1:00 PM and 3:00 PM.
  3. Send texts around noon any day of the week, excluding Sunday.

Marketing techniques

It’s important to remember that your practice is a business. Thus, a weak dental recall strategy can negatively impact even the most talented dentists. This is why employing strong marketing techniques is key to having recurring patients.


Having a marketing mindset when talking to your patients will promote retention. Remember, every conversation you have with a patient is an opportunity to encourage regular check-ups.

A great tip is to remind your patients to follow you on social media and leave a review.

Unused benefits

Your dental recall strategy should include notifying patients about unused health insurance benefits. Early fall is a smart time to tell them to take advantage of their unused benefits before the end of the year.

Start by identifying the patients with remaining dental benefits. Then, check if they’re overdue for check-ups or have outstanding treatment. By using their preferred method of communication, remind them to make the most out of their benefits before the year is up.

This technique is a surefire way to increase your dental recall appointments.

What’s a dental recall appointment

Dental recall appointments, or recall visits, are regularly-scheduled check-up appointments. They help dentists build ongoing relationships with their patients. You can call these recall appointments “dental recall exams” as well. This is because most dental visits require some sort of oral health examination.

You should always make sure to book another visit with a patient before they walk out the door. If the patient doesn’t know their schedule in advance, reassure them that you can adjust it as the date approaches.

Also, it’s important to note that the receptionist doesn’t have to be the one making follow-up appointments. In fact, it can be more effective when the hygienist talks to the patient about it.

Book while they’re in the chair

When a patient’s appointment is over, they want to get out of your office and get on with their day. So, securing another appointment is more effective when it’s brought up mid-session. This is why hygienists have greater success with pre-booking patients than receptionists do.

The hygienist can bring up a dental recall exam during their cleaning before the dentist comes in the room.

A lifetime approach

Your dental recall strategy should emphasize a lifetime approach to maintaining oral health. When you discuss dental care with patients as a lifetime strategy, it makes them think about long-term plans for their oral hygiene.

You can increase dental recall frequency by including a recall appointment after each treatment, emphasizing the necessity of being regularly checked. This lets the patient know the significance of a lifetime approach.

At the end of the day, your dental recall strategy will impact your revenue and your brand awareness. Use these tips to build a successful recall system. This will enable you to keep helping patients achieve the best oral health.