Patient demographics can be deceptive. If you want to boil it down to the essence, focus your attention on your active dental patient benchmarks.
Benchmarks in this context would have to do with what defines an active dental patient, how you measure their value to your dental practice, and why it’s vital to retain them for the long haul.
Who are your active dental patients?
Again, we’re interested in benchmark data here. That said, let’s generally define who we’re talking about.
Think of an active patient as…
A person that has been in (your) office at least once during the past 14 to 18 months for any reason except for those you know who…
- Are deceased or who have moved away (and will not return for dental care)
- Have been in just for a one time only emergency visit
Such a narrow focus will help you more easily define this measurable. Too broad a definition could get you lost-in-the-weeds and out of touch with the main reason for knowing these numbers.
How many active dental patients is a good benchmark?
Across the board, the numbers point to a range of 1600 to 1800 active patients for full-time dental practice. Those numbers can fluctuate depending on the dentist-to-patient ratio within a practice.
Speaking of dentist to patient ratios…
That number hovers around 1500. Thus one dentist per 1500 patients based on a standard five-day workweek. 
Keep in mind that those metrics could fluctuate. Factors would include pacing, team energies, and availability, etc.
Opinions vary, though one holds that attempting to see more than the 1500 range (as a solo dentist) can lead to a couple of issues.
- Seeing more patients in the same amount of time could lead to a decrease in average annual billing per patient – “…you’re working harder for the same – or less – revenue.”
- The more patients on your schedule can equate to less time and attention for each. For example, an increase in hygiene patient exams could create less time to treat restorative patients. 
Bottom line: your practice goals set the pace. Self and team awareness is a good barometer for pacing.
Your practice DNA, such as a specialty emphasis, could also raise or lower the number depending on your services.
Crunching-the-numbers for your active dental patients
An accurate and informative count can be achieved in a variety of ways. Available time and technology will determine how effectively you “drill down” into your patient database.
- Software and dental dashboard systems are typically equipped to scan your database.
- Chart audits – though time-consuming – can produce an amount of active patient data.
- Active patient estimations could be obtained from the number of available hygiene appointments. A Henry Schein resource suggests – “The number of hygiene days in a week is multiplied times the number of patients seen per day times twenty-five weeks (one six-month recall cycle).” 
- Multiply the number of recall exams from the previous 12 months by 50%. 
Why the active dental patient data is an effective benchmark
Again, it’s important to not become distracted by the numbers themselves or how you arrive at them. The key is what the active dental patient numbers contribute to your success.
For example, a low active patient number can create unique challenges – even though your goals, team energy, available services are established and well-intentioned.
Success comes from first determining your accurate active patient number. Then it pays to routinely monitor and track any fluctuations up or down.
Each active patient carries a lifetime patient value. This helps produce long-term, consistent, and annual revenue.
”Monitoring the annual individual patient values lets the doctor know their total prior-year practice receipts. Dividing this number by the active patient count yields the average patient annual value.” 
- Remember that each number is a patient. They each represent emotions, health goals, referrals, and more.
- Renew your vision and goals around active patient data analysis.
- Reenergize your team around your active patient potential.
This is the first in a series of essential dental practice benchmarks. The more useful data you “mine” and monitor, the more productive and profitable you can become.
Choose the tools that help you achieve success as a DSO, group practice, or solo private practice
- Integrates seamlessly with your chosen practice management software/platform
- Presents the metrics you want and need in an easy-to-view dental dashboard that reduces data complexity for growing dental practices, dental groups, and DSOs
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