An unexpected opening in the schedule can create a variety of responses when you find out. Your response will change at different times in your journey.

The loss of the expected production, the wasted time that another patient could have used, and what to do now with the time all cross your mind. Also, your response will be affected by whether it is loss of doctor time or hygienist time.

“A pessimist sees the difficulty in every opportunity; an optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty.” -Winston S. Churchill

Early in most dental journeys, an open appointment prominently affects the bottom line. The debt a practice incurs to set up a practice and grow sometimes reigns paramount on the dentist/owner’s mind. If you are accepting insurance payments, your margin is most likely thinner than a fee-for-service practice and hurts more. 

dental team meeting during cancelled appointment

Hopefully you know what your office overhead costs are so you know what profit will be lost with the open time. If a hygiene appointment is not filled, how many more hygiene appointments have to be completed to make up for the lost overhead costs before you break even? You most likely are paying your hygienist 15 to 25 percent more than their salary in additional taxes and benefits. Do the math. Know your real costs.

So if your hygienist has open time, do they know what is expected of them? Do they see this time as an opportunity to grow or catch up with non-patient responsibilities, or a break time to be on their cell phone? 

What happens when there is open doctor time? The truth is that it really is open doctor and assistant time. Do you see it as a time to catch up on paper work or do you see it as an opportunity to train and help your assistants do and understand more?  

Both have their advantages, but I see it as a time for me and my team to grow together. I see this time as an opportunity to have our team know what goes through my head as we perform our procedures. We help hone each other's skills.  

As a result, they have become very well-educated and are very engaged in the care we provide. I usually relegate paperwork (computer work) to non-patient hours.

I do confess that I have taken these opportunities to hang out on Spear Digest and Spear Talk to read what others have to say and to share my thoughts. I use this information to incorporate it into our practice and for morning huddles and staff meeting topics.

“Lost time is never found again” - Benjamin Franklin

Our front desk knows that once an open time passes, it cannot be made up. They have short call list for patients who may be able to fill an unexpected opening. They also will look a few days ahead in our schedule to see if someone can come in earlier than their scheduled appointment.

But the fact of life is that openings in the schedule will occur. Try your best to not become emotional about it, but be prepared with what to do when it occurs to make it a productive time.

"When life gives you lemons, make lemonade"

Good luck on your journey,

Carl Steinberg, DDS, MAGD, LLSR