Low Patient Volume Has an Impact on Your Bottom Line


Low Patient Volume Has an Impact on Your Bottom Line

Young family sitting in dentist office waiting area.

The success of any dental practice depends on patients. However, patient volume can vary widely from month to month and year to year. Recently, dentists across the country have noticed marked changes in the flow of patients through their doors. Low patient volume can impact your bottom line—both for your business and your salary! Read on for a closer look at the factors affecting patient volume and some ideas for keeping patients returning for care!

Patient Volume Affects Your Business—and Your Pay!

The more patients that come through your door, the better your business will do! There will always be a bit of ebb and flow to patient volume. It can vary month to month on a predictable routine. For example, many dentists notice lower patient volumes in the summer when families go on vacation while their kids aren’t in school. Then, there are larger, longer-term dips when your community struggles for one reason or another.

There is also a lag effect to these events in dentistry that doesn’t affect other industries similarly. When offices closed at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, it didn’t just mean canceled appointments during the shutdown. Six months later, the schedule fell apart in many offices because those recall cleanings were missing. These gaps in the schedule can sometimes take years to iron out and get things back on track. 

Decreases in patient volume not only impact the health of the practice overall, but they can also seriously affect your pay. Most dentists’ pay depends partially on production, although the details differ from practice to practice. When patient volume dips, it can likewise put a squeeze on your wallet! CDP is dedicated to our dentists, and we also want to ensure our patients continue to enjoy excellent oral health. That’s why we work so hard to acknowledge barriers to care and maintain high patient volumes. The more patients we can serve, the healthier our communities will be, and the more our practices will thrive!

Why Does Patient Volume Fluctuate?

There are a myriad of factors affecting patient volumes in any practice. Patient volume will ebb and flow throughout your dental career. Many of these fluctuations are predictable, but some are not. Maintaining consistent patient volume is essential to creating stability and protecting profitability in your practice and career. 


Dentists have long been aware of how economic fluctuations can impact their business. Sometimes, it feels like dentists know about financial crises before the bankers! Dental care is frequently the first thing patients cut out when their discretionary income dries up. Many patients see dentistry—especially orthodontic care—as a luxury, especially when money is tight.

As most of us are all too aware, the U.S. economy has been unusual in the past few years. Inflation is slowing, but people still feel the burden of high prices at gas pumps and grocery stores. Housing costs have likewise gone up. All these changes eat into the funds your patients would normally be able to spend on dental care.

Public Health Crises

Dentist looking on and learning as another dentist works on patient.

However, even before these recent economic developments, dentistry was hit hard by another world event: COVID-19. Unlike other industries, dentistry is especially subject to the impact of disease outbreaks. Even other medical facilities, such as family physicians, don’t see the same effects from emerging epidemics. After all, if people are sick, they will go to the doctor. 

Unfortunately, dentistry is widely perceived as something that can wait until things calm down. Patients may also fear to visit the dentist when there are public health concerns in the area. Dentists are no strangers to the impact of outbreaks on our business. We saw it with HIV in the 80s, when patients avoided the dentist for fear of exposure. Fortunately, dentists adopted additional safety protocols, and most could navigate this fraught environment successfully.

According to research from the RAND Corporation, nearly half of adults in the U.S. delayed dental care at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. Most of those patients have finally returned to us, but many have not resumed their regular care, even though dental offices have been very safe throughout the pandemic. 

We know all too well how important it is for patients to maintain regular care, including cleanings and oral health check-ups. So, how can we help reinforce this message and get our patients in the chair?

How CDP Helps Practices Maintain Stable Patient Flow

Most dentists have struggled at some point in the past few years. Most of us have felt squeezed recently because of COVID-19, the economy, or other issues. How your practice thrives—or fails to thrive—has everything to do with your relationship with your patients.

Building Trust and Providing Patient Education Pays Dividends

Mother, daughter, female dentist all smiling in the office.

It can be hard to bond with patients as dentists because many of them will come into your practice with dental fears and phobias. Navigating those instances can be a real challenge. For dentists who take the time to get to know their patients and build good relationships, that investment will pay off when times get tough. If your patients trust you and feel connected to your team, they will be more likely to keep up with appointments even when money is short or times are scary.

Likewise, investing in patient education is a great way to recession-proof your practice. Dentistry is essential to healthcare. As dental professionals, we are all too aware of the strain periodontal disease can put on the entire body. We understand how a simple cavity can become an infection or abscess. We know those infections can become deadly in rare cases. On the other hand, the uneducated public may not understand how vital their regular dental visits are.

Excellent patient education starts with your team. That’s why CDP takes careful steps to hire the best assistants and court the best hygienists in our practices. Your practice will benefit from a dental team that can communicate the true value of your work. Likewise, giving your hygienists sufficient time to educate their patients during prophies is never a waste of time or money.

Help Your Patients Afford Care with the Right Guidance

If your patient volume starts to suffer during times of inflation or economic shrinkage, your patients may feel like they can’t afford the care they need. This is where your front-of-office team can really step up. Financial hurdles should ideally never cost your patients their health. While you obviously can’t complete every case pro bono, you may be able to help your patients afford care.

Dental insurance can be tricky. Patients sometimes struggle to access the full benefits of their plan and often aren’t aware of the services available to help them cover the portion insurance won’t pay for. Your practice can only benefit by employing a financial advisor to help patients get the most out of their insurance and advise them on third-party financing options. In some cases, an in-house payment plan may be the right solution. Every hurdle you can remove to help your patients afford their treatment plan will get you one step closer to maintaining good patient volume through hard times.

Location Matters

We’ve discussed the benefits of establishing a practice where patients need better access to care. Maintaining a full roster of patients in an oversaturated market can be tricky and only gets more challenging when patients start avoiding visits during a recession. CDP always strives to improve access to care for underserved communities. By choosing our locations carefully, we help our doctors maintain high patient volumes consistently. 

Partnering with CDP is a great way to keep yourself working consistently, even as the market fluctuates. We have the infrastructure to keep your practice running and patients coming through your door. Schedule a call with a Hiring Manager to learn more about a great dental career at CDP!

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Dr. Chad Evans
Dr. Chad Evans Clinical Chair & Co-Founder Community Dental Partners

Dr. Chad Evans is the Clinical Chair, Co-Founder, and owner of Smile Magic Dentistry and Braces™ and CDP. Their mission is to create an extraordinary and enjoyable dental experience for kids, their families, and especially the underserved.

He began working in the dental industry at eleven when he went to work in his father’s dental lab. His deep love of serving those in need started a short time later after a service mission to Chile as a late teen.

Dr. Evans attended Creighton Dental School and partnered with his friend from childhood, where they grew from one practice to a dental brand stretching across Texas. They remain dedicated to their vision and mission to do dentistry differently, innovate in their industry, and serve the underserved.

He lives in Texas with his wife and seven children. He enjoys family time, aviation, off-road racing, metal fabrication, Constitutional studies, camping, and adventures when not working.

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