Does Your Practice Have “Dead” Months? Here’s How to Tackle Them

Every practice has those months when it seems that patients are only trickling in.

We understand the frustration. Many practices are working hard just to get by on regular months, let alone finding ways to make it through those “dead” times.

There are some common themes we see among dental practices, such as September often being slow when kids go back to school. There are often also slow months in the winter, particularly if you are based in an area that is often affected by bad weather.

So, what do you do about these slow periods in your practice? Do you have a plan to tackle them? Let’s look at a few ideas for getting through them while maximizing your opportunities:

Need a plan for those slow months? Here are our ideas.

Hold Special Events

Here’s something that has worked out well in our own practices. We have the similar slow periods to what many other dental practices have, so we decided to hold events at those times to generate interest and encourage more people to come in.

Each February and August, we host a “kid’s day” where we put on some fun activities that are centered on families. For example, we run some games where the aim is to get kids participating and having fun.

At the same time, we promote family group memberships for our practices, demonstrating the benefits available to those who would sign up as a family group. Typically, we get around 200 kids at these events and we have their families—including grandparents—signing up for the family group membership.

Besides the obvious benefit of pulling in more business during the slow period, the positives are far more. One of the things we are able to do quite successfully is create a positive view of dentistry for the kids. We can all see the value in that! The kids get to come into a fun, non-threatening environment where they don’t even have to get into a dental chair if they don’t want to. This tends to set them up well for being more at ease with future visits.

Secondly, because we sell family Health Assurance Plan subscriptions, our cash flow works out long beyond what we need to do to boost those slow months. We get regular monthly income from those subscriptions and we find that cash flow is much more consistent and predictable.

Offering subscription plans can keep your dental practice stable, even during slow months. Click To Tweet

This is another benefit we wanted to take care of with Health Assurance Plan. Plans are able to be adjusted and customized to suit the needs of the patients and the practice, allowing individual practices to better cater to the preferences of their patient base.

You can create that long-term relationship based on getting patients to good dental health, while allowing them the flexibility of a monthly plan that suits them. How many families might you have in your area who would opt in if they could get on a family plan?

Plan Around Those Slow Months

Why is it that certain months tend to be slower? Often simply because the conditions around those months make it difficult for patients to come in. No one enjoys traipsing through a winter storm to get to their dentist. And, when the kids go back to school, households are busy with activities and the settling in period.

Another strategy we see a lot of practices use is to plan around those slow months by trying to make up for them in more popular months. This often means increasing the appointment availability you have during those busier months. You might be in for an extraordinarily busy month, but the key is maximizing those popular times for the patient.

The next logical question is: How will you cater to those extra appointment needs? Most dental practices can’t simply decide to see more patients within their current hours and staffing, so here are some strategies that practices use:

  • Offer some limited extended hours, or extra days of the week. There are a lot of people for whom getting to the dentist on a weekday is a struggle, so longer hours or appointment availability on a Saturday can help them.


  • Look to temporary staffing solutions. There are staffing agencies that specialize in dental practices and should be able to find you temporary dental hygienists who can help your practice to see more patients. A key to remember here is that, if this is part of your plan, you need to make decisions early. It’s not uncommon to need to book those temporary staff members up to six months in advance. This is especially true around January when patients may be looking to maximize dental insurance benefits.


  • Try to book hygiene appointments earlier in the month, giving patients the time to schedule any needed follow-up work later that month. (Perhaps this is a good case for using the services of those temporary hygienists).


  • Segment your patient list and specifically aim to get families and school-aged kids in the month before your slow month. For example, you might do this using a “family day” like we do, or just by letting them know you have extra appointments available.

It always helps to have a good idea of the seasonal trends and how they might impact your practice so that you are able to plan ahead. Keep a close eye on the vital statistics for your dental practice and understand where your “dead” spots lie. Most will find that they tend to follow those similar trends of a slow February and September, but you have to know the nuances for your own area.


Be Proactive

The most successful practices out there are proactive about monitoring and planning for any seasonal events or changes. A killer mistake that many others make is to get a bit complacent while times are busy and the revenue is rolling in. It can be tempting to “cruise” and take that weather-eye off how the practice is doing overall.

There are a few ways we suggest practices take a proactive approach:

  • Think about timing in terms of the events and activities people are involved in and how these might create a requirement for the dental practice. As an example, some practices have very successfully run promotions offering custom mouthguards prior to sports seasons when kids are heading back to school.


  • Make it a regular habit to set goals and go over the performance of your practice. Don’t let a “we’re doing okay” attitude creep in and potentially mask any pending issues.


  • Have clear standards about how to effectively present treatment options to patients and follow those at all times. Sometimes practices have been known to become complacent about doing a good job with presentations during the busy times.


  • Market your practice. This is another activity that can fall by the wayside when times are busy, but most practices really need to have an ongoing program in place. Remember to include referral programs if you can—those can be a powerful way to get results.


  • Be proactive with following up with patients. Get team members to call patients who are due for appointments and to follow up with those who may have been putting off treatment. Find ways that you can work together (for example, by offering customized plans).

The key message here is to conduct practice activities with a longer-term view in mind. It’s tempting to just put your head down while it’s busy, but that’s not going to help your practice later on.

Get ahead with an action plan for your dental practice. Download our ideas here.

Final Thoughts

Virtually every single dental practice goes through “dead” months with hugely reduced patient numbers coming through the door. If you stay on top of it and know when these times fall for your practice, you can turn these around and at least reduce the revenue loss.

Plan ahead for the lean months by being proactive about marketing and patient follow-up, by understanding your patient base and their unique needs, and by planning events, promotions, or activities designed to get more people through the door.

The added bonus of using a program like Health Assurance Plan to offer subscriptions is that your activities don’t need to solely be geared toward patching over those slow months. You can create recurring revenue that carries from month to month into the future.

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