Data Trends: U.S. practices conducting more exams

2016 09 20 09 44 50 351 Dentist Patient Hygienist 400

One of the most important ways to bring revenue into the practice is to perform exams on new and existing patients. It's the lifeblood of a practice and opens the doors for more procedures, and it is an opportunity to build trust between the dentist and dental team members and the patient.

One way to get an overview of how a practice, and how the U.S. dental profession, is doing is to examine how many exams or evaluations a practice is performing each month. These numbers will help paint an overall picture of the health of your practice, according to Dayna Johnson, founder and owner of Rae Dental Management.

“There are key metrics to a practice's success, and the number of exams you're performing each month is definitely one you should be paying attention to.”
— Dayna Johnson, founder and owner of Rae Dental Management

"You have to know your numbers, and that includes how many patients are coming into your practice. These aren't numbers that you can guess about or numbers that you think you know. You have to know how many patients are really in your practice, what they're investing in, and where your practice can be improving," Johnson said. "There are key metrics to a practice's success, and the number of exams you're performing each month is definitely one you should be paying attention to."

When looking at the numbers of exams done per month in each practice, there are some interesting findings. Overall, practices throughout the U.S. are performing about five more evaluations per month than they were five years ago. Other data show that recall effectiveness has grown (a trend that we'll be touching on in an upcoming column). More evaluations per month and a higher rate of recall effectiveness work hand in hand to ensure that a steady stream of patients are walking through the practice's doors.

To look at total exams per month per practice, we combined comprehensive exams (CDT codes D0150, D0180) and periodic exams (CDT code D0120) for the final number. The codes focus on both new and established patients:

  • D0120: Periodic oral evaluation -- established patient
  • D0150: Comprehensive oral evaluation -- new or established patient
  • D0180: Comprehensive periodontal evaluation -- new or established patient

Upward trend

To find the average number of total exams in a dental practice, we extracted data from Sikka Software that has been collected from more than 12,500 dental practices from around the U.S. since 2010 until the end of 2016.

Let's take a look at the numbers compiled by the data over the last seven years.

Total exams per dental practice, 2010-2016

The good news is that total number of exams is going up as we've seen an upward trend over the last four years. This indicates that practices are doing a better job of bringing in new patients and also emphasizing to their existing patients the importance of returning. During the economic downturn, many patients were putting other things ahead of their oral health. These numbers seem to indicate that trend has turned around.

Practice tip

Of course, to keep that trend going up in your practice, you have to keep your patients coming back in for their regular checkups, and you also have to attract new patients to your practice. Social media can play a key role in attracting new patients, according to Mike Pedersen, owner and founder of the Dental Boost marketing services firm.

Reaching today's patients where they are and touching upon their perceived needs is a critical step that many practices overlook, Pedersen said.

"People will go to your dental website before they become a patient," Pedersen said. "Make sure to have content on all your service pages that meet them at their emotional need. Don't make it about you and your practice, but about how much better they are going to feel about themselves after they see you."

Alitta Boechler is the director of digital marketing at Sikka Software. You can contact her at Practice Mobilizer is a free app that lets dentists send HIPAA-compliant video messages, tracks patient arrival times, provides ZIP code-specific fee data, and more. Dentists can check out or the mobile app at

Please note that the data should be used for comparison only.

The comments and observations expressed herein do not necessarily reflect the opinions of, nor should they be construed as an endorsement or admonishment of any particular idea, vendor, or organization.

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