Dentists tend to love new patients because a new face in the chair represents new possibilities. Here is someone who has never been exposed to your approach to dentistry before, someone who has no history with you of having challenging mindsets or bad habits, someone who has never said no—yet. In that sense, every new patient is a fresh start.

It doesn't take long; however, for a new patient to become a not-so-new patient. Once you have presented your recommendations from that first exam and the patient either accepts or declines, they often end up being absorbed into the existing routines of the practice. They go into the cycle of regular recare and you see them mostly during hygiene check-ups where you look for any new and urgent issues, and that's it. These are what I call "parked patients." You have made certain assumptions about them and the level of dentistry they want, and they have probably made certain assumptions about dentistry too.

But of course people do change over time; their circumstances can change; your diagnostic and clinical skills change; dentistry changes.

This is why I recommend having a strategy for re-engaging long-time patients. Identify the ones who have been parked for five to 10 years or more and give them an opportunity to update their vision and rediscover what dentistry can be about. Schedule them for a comprehensive re-examination, using much the same approach as you would with a new patient (keeping in mind that you now know more about them than you do for any new patient you see).

Getting these parked patients moving again is a great way to grow efficiently by going deeper with the patient base you already have. If you're looking for more insights into how to accomplish this, I have a simple system for how to re-engage with parked patients that I talk about in my latest Lunch + Learn team development lesson.


Commenter's Profile Image Barry Polansky
January 16th, 2014
One thing we know about the oral cavity is that it is not a stable environment...not in the Age of the Vitamix. There are so many things beyond our control that create changes---The New Patient Exam is a great way to introduce patients to that philosophy and the constant need to reexamine and reassess--- gastro-enterologists do it all the time. The prevailing attitude in dentistry is that once fixed--it lasts forever---every dentist should do his or her best to change that paradigm.