Data Trends: Active patients per practice on upward trend

By Alitta Boechler, AuD, MBA, contributing writer

October 31, 2017 -- How is your practice doing when it comes to the number of active patients on your books? If your practice is anything like the U.S. average, your numbers are on the rise.

Despite tales of patients who may not be returning to the practice or those who are falling off the books for reasons such as relocation or inactivity, our data suggest that a dental practice today may have more active patients than the dental practice at the start of this decade.

Active patients

We recently combed through data from Sikka Software that has been logged from more than 12,500 dental practices from around the U.S. We are defining an active patient as a patient who has visited the practice in the last 18 months.

Let's take a look at the numbers and how they are trending in the average dental practice in the U.S.

Number of active patients per U.S. dental practice since 2010
Year Active patients
2010 2,194.4
2011 2,206.9
2012 2,213.5
2013 2,231.5
2014 2,251.9
2015 2,335.3
2016 2,403.8

Retention is key

Of course, the key to the rise in these numbers is patient retention. Without the ability to retain patients, your numbers will drop and your business will suffer as well. That's a rule that holds true in any economic climate.

So what can you do to give yourself the best chance of retaining your patients? We asked Dayna Johnson, founder of Rae Dental Management, what she tells her clients.

"When it boils down to its very essence, patient retention is about marketing and how patients are treated when they walk through your doors," Johnson said. "Do you have hours that fit the lifestyle of your patient base? Do your patients get a warm, welcoming feeling when they come into your practice?"

“An even more important number to know is how your active patients are fluctuating.”

Johnson highlighted the importance of treating patients as people.

"Are you living up to your mission statement? Do your patients feel like a human being rather than just a piece of your bottom line?" she continued. "Questions like these are important to not only bringing patients into your practice, but keeping them there as well."

Johnson spoke highly of a 2009 book Everything is Marketing: The Ultimate Strategy for Dental Practice Growth by Fred Joyal. She cites this book as a daily mantra for practices and also as a good thought to keep in the back of every team member's mind.

"I read that book, and it really hit home that everything done in the dental practice is really an arm of marketing to the patient," Johnson said. "Everything that is said and everything that is done, either verbally or nonverbally, are messages that patients consume. If they don't feel comfortable in the practice and feel like you and your team don't have their interest in mind, these patients will find somewhere else that does."

While new patients are always an important number to know, an even more important number to know is how your active patients are fluctuating. If you see a drop in those numbers, it might be time to look at the message your business and team members are sending out.

Alitta Boechler is the director of digital marketing at Sikka Software. You can contact her at 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.

Copyright © 2017

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