Oral Health Group

Know Your Numbers for Dental Practice Growth: Top 5 Metrics to Help You Prevail Through Turbulent Times

December 4, 2020
by Wayne Lavery

As the late poet Maya Angelou once said, “If you don’t know where you’ve come from, you don’t know where you’re going.”

Angelou’s inspiring quote couldn’t be more relevant than it is now. Clarity on your practice’s past and present, including trends, is necessary to boost your bottom line. When business leaders lack this clarity, panic can set in, and they are prone to making decisions based on gut feelings. This is dangerous and detrimental, especially when trying to claw your way back from COVID-19 losses. It’s critical to benchmark and monitor key performance metrics to pave a clear path forward.


The recovery so far has been swift for most practices – but that doesn’t mean it’s time to rest on your laurels. The data shows that dental offices that have achieved (or are close to) pre-COVID production levels have maintained excellent communication strategies and have full knowledge of their business and marketing results over the last year.

If your practice is having a tough time regaining momentum since the shutdown and you’d like to get clear on your situation, it’s time to tap into practice intelligence.

Most dental practices have a good idea of what’s happening with their new patient flow. But who might you be losing out the backdoor – without realizing it?

Here are the top five actionable dental practice metrics your practice can benefit from right now.

1. Attrition vs. new patient growth
The average new patient is worth twice the value of an existing patient. It’s a must to bring them into your practice – even in the best of times. The average solo dentist requires 24–50 new patients per month to achieve consistent growth.

New patients are an indicator of how well your team is performing. While you may have a steady flow of them, do you know if attrition is outpacing this growth? When you subtract the total number of lost patients from new patients, you get your actual net gain or net loss number. Dentists are often surprised by what they find out. But it’s hard evidence that improvements need to be
made to keep active patients engaged with the practice.

To the right is actual data from Practice ZEBRA, a cloud-based practice intelligence and marketing automation tool from Patient NEWS. The names of these Canadian dental offices have been omitted for privacy reasons.

As you can see, Practice 2 is the clear winner in this comparison. While they gained 89 fewer new patients than Practice 1 did in a year, they did a better job of controlling attrition. Practice 1 is in a negative position because they lost 25% more patients than they gained (including reactivated patients). The second practice is far better positioned for growth heading into 2021.

2. Looking at new patients versus active patients
In the first few months of the pandemic, there was a big focus on communication with existing patients and ensuring their needs were met first. That’s a good thing because they are the ones who have been loyal to your practice and had to postpone their care. But now that you’ve been open for a while, it’s time to let new patients know you’re open for business and have taken all the necessary precautions to keep them safe. Bringing these new patients on board is especially important if you’re spotting holes in the schedule due to pent-up demand coming to a halt.

In their first year, the average new patient is twice as valuable as an existing patient. To ensure you get more new patients and increase production, you could:

  • extend office hours
  • set aside specific dates/times to see new patients
  • use targeted marketing and communication campaigns to reach new patients.

Being flexible and accessible to new patients could be a strong competitive advantage in your market. And by looking at your overall production from new and existing patients, it will indicate how your recovery is progressing.

3. Call conversion and its impact on revenue
Most practices miss 30% of inbound calls and convert less than 60% into appointments. But the top 10% of dental offices in Practice ZEBRA’s database are hitting it out of the park with 99% of calls answered and 96% booking an appointment. Where does your practice stand?

With a convenient forecasting tool, it’s possible to see precisely how impactful a small – and achievable – increase in calls answered and converted can have a massive impact on overall production. An incremental increase of about 10% has been made in the example above, resulting in a $152,000 annual revenue increase. (The practice’s average new patient value of $1,278 was used to make the calculation.)

And this is possible without spending a cent more on marketing!

4. Active patients scheduled for a future appointment
Currently, the top 10% of dental practices connected to Practice ZEBRA schedule 70% of their active patients back in for an appointment. The industry average is much lower, at 40%. In recent months, you’ve probably seen most of your risk-tolerant active patients. But how many are lined up to return?

The following data perfectly illustrates how increasing your schedule rate affects yearly production.

5. Review case acceptance trends
For every 10 treatment plans you present, how many patients accept? Do members of your team know? Every patient who doesn’t accept leaves your office without plans to return. And that means you lose out on considerable revenue.

The average office has a case acceptance rate of 25%, according to Practice ZEBRA. Meanwhile, industry leaders are achieving 89%. These are high-profit, high-margin cases for your team, so you’ll want to keep your finger on the pulse.

Now is the time to present comprehensive care to patients. Why? They expect more treatment at a single visit. Time is valuable to them and many still want to limit their interactions with others because of COVID-19. Talk to them about comprehensive care and emphasize the undeniable link between oral and overall health. They’ll appreciate it and feel you and your team genuinely care for their wellbeing.

So, once you know what your case acceptance rate is, you can set an achievable goal with your team and get everyone on the same page – and excelling together.

Practice intelligence takes the guesswork out of making tough business decisions. With it, you can confidently pivot during everchanging times and have complete clarity on how individual marketing and operational decisions impact your results. Your team can predict what’s going to happen based on previous trends. And you can reduce inefficiencies, take advantage of more new patient opportunities, maximize marketing ROI, and understand your patients better to give them the best experience in the dental chair they’ve ever had.

The dental practice software industry is predicted to grow from $498 million to $1 billion by 2024. The technology is here to stay – and it’s only going to get better.

Although we don’t know when we’ll have to face the next pandemic, the next recession, or a different major world crisis, what dental teams can do is better prepare themselves for the ups and downs with real-time information. After all, numbers don’t lie.

To learn more about the technology referenced in this article, visit practicezebra.com or contact Transitions Group at 1-800-345-5157.

About the Author

As CEO and founder of Patient News, Wayne Lavery has extensive experience developing effective marketing strategies in the health care provider marketplace. Over the past 27 + years Patient News has worked with 7,500 dental offices and generated millions of new patients for their clients. Over this time the company has expanded from being a direct mail provider to services that now include: software (Practice Zebra), call analytics, staff training, web development, SEO, and social media. Patient News has been named a Top 100 Employer for four consecutive years and has received multiple awards for graphic design, direct marketing, and environmental efforts.

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