Linking Patient Retention Strategies to the ROI of Your Dental Practice

Linking Patient Retention Strategies to the ROI of Your Dental Practice

Please enjoy this excerpt from our ebook, Solutions for Patient Retention: A Primer.

"I know all about the leaky bucket because I suffered from it. I focused on new patient acquisition and I grew my practice and grew my practice, and then all of a sudden, we plateaued. We were losing patients at the same rate we were adding them.

"But then as soon as I expanded my practice, we focused on retention. And literally within three years, my practice doubled. In the first 10 years, we got to $2 million and then in three years, we went to $4 million. All because we focused on retention." 

- Brett Wells, DDS, Wells Family Dental Group


Strategies abound for onboarding new patients to your dental practice – from Google Adwords and social media campaigns to new patient discounts and coupon books. Any of these strategies certainly can bring new patients into your door and may help bring a short-term boost to your practice’s revenue and patient acquisition rate.

But the sad truth remains: Many of these patients will be hopping from one new-patient special offer to the next, and one dental office to the next, without ever becoming a long-term patient of your practice.

It’s one thing to attract patients with a flashy new discount special; it’s a whole other ballpark to build the foundation of a relationship with them, and to create a sense of loyalty between your patients and your practice.


This isn’t to discredit the importance of attracting new patients. But being a revolving door for new patients that visit once and never return again is also not going to be the most effective or efficient way to run your business.

Let’s say your practice serves 2000 patients, and last year you added 500 new patients. On the surface, those numbers translate to a 25% growth rate – look at you! And that would feel pretty awesome… if it told the whole story.

Taking another look at your numbers, you see that another 500 patients became inactive last year, meaning they stopped booking and showing up to their appointments. So while you may have indeed added 500 new patients (yay!), you also were unable to retain 500 other patients (aww…).

So, those 500 new patients basically only replaced the other 500 patients that became inactive, bringing your annual growth rate for the year back to a much flatter and rounder zero. Further, it’s going to have cost you a lot more to market to and acquire each of those new patients than it would for you to continue building on the relationships you had with those 500 patients that became inactive.

No dental office wants to be spending thousands of dollars on their marketing budget just to see a flat growth rate at the end of the year. But this is all too common a scenario. When strategies for improving patient retention are not at the forefront of how we operate our practices, we are needlessly losing patients – and the marketing budget to attract them.

We call this the leaky bucket. Your practice = the bucket. If your bucket has holes in it, the water you pour into that bucket isn’t staying inside the bucket. That water is leaking out and spilling all over the floor.

On average, dental practices retain only 41% of new patients.

If your practice is this leaky bucket, you may be pouring new patients into your practice, but you’re not retaining them. So those patients (new and established) are leaking out, and they’re going to your competitors for their dental needs instead.

Luckily, the solution to your practice’s leaky bucket problems is not out of reach. By focusing on patient retention strategies that lower your patient attrition rate and boost patient loyalty, you can begin to patch up those leaky places in your practice.

A bucket that doesn’t leak fills up with water faster. Similarly, a practice that employs effective patient retention strategies operates a more efficient business filled to the brim with happier and more loyal patients.

Plus, your practice would no longer be leaking marketing dollars while attempting to attract new patients who may not even stay with you for the long haul. Cold, hard facts time: On average, 41% of those new patients will indeed leave and not come back.

If you enjoyed this excerpt from our ebook, Solutions for Patient Retention: A Primer, there’s more meat (or veggies!) to sink your teeth into – visit the ebook download page and we’ll deliver these nutritious brain snacks straight to your inbox.

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