The most vital element of practice management for you, your patient and your practice

An effective recall system is the most critical element to the success of any dental practice, impacting growth, profitability, and optimal patient care. 

If a practice is successfully bringing new patients through the door but unsuccessful in bringing them back through that door for regular check-ups and other treatment, that business will very likely be struggling, and unable to sustain this long-term. Retaining current patients is 6 to 7 times less costly than acquiring new ones (Bain & Company), so a focus on your practice’s recall strategy will deliver financial benefits for your business, better oral health outcomes for your patients, and a thriving practice for you.   

There are a variety of ways to effectively recall dental patients, so what makes any one recall system particularly effective? Let’s review some of the best practice processes used by successful dental businesses around the country. 

It’s a team effort 

Ensuring your recall system is hitting the mark and bringing your existing patients back to you is not the sole responsibility of front office staff. Top recall systems are executed as a collaborative approach by all staff.  

It is important for the whole team to communicate the same message during each interaction with a patient and for that consistent messaging to become a routine talking point with patients.  

Patient information should be checked and updated regularly, with the front office team, always attempting to prebook the next visit prior to the patient leaving the practice. Dental assistants and practitioners should use patient education techniques when the patient is in the chair to reinforce the need for, and benefits of, regular visits to the dentist.  

Educate patients 

Patient education is perhaps the primary key to giving your recall strategy the best chance of success. Clear and regular communication with patients about the importance of maintaining good oral health before, during, and after their visit, enhances patient commitment and participation in the ongoing relationship they will have with you and your practice.  

Helping your patients to appreciate the importance of oral hygiene maintenance may not always be easy, but if they don’t believe it, they simply won’t book.  

Automated systems and monitoring 

Automating your recalls through your practice management software is a practical way of ensuring no patients fall through the cracks and your recalls stay regular and consistent. Automation makes it easy to contact patients via a variety of communication channels. A first recall message might be sent as an SMS, the second as an email, and the third as a printed letter or postcard. A multi-channel campaign will deliver the best results. An automated recall system will also allow you to consider each patient’s preferred contact method and send via their preference efficiently as well as personalising communication with each patient’s personal details, specific recall date and a link to your online booking system. This makes it easy for your patients to respond and book their appointment on the spot.  

The goal is a successful recall system, but what does success mean? Before you can measure recall effectiveness, you will need to establish what your practice considers an effective recall – is it that your patient books within 14 days or within the month? Or is it whether your patient books at all, no matter the timeframe?  

Once you determine the desirable recall outcome for your business, the next step is to look at your patients’ demographics and ask yourself, what form of communication do you think will they respond to? To work out what the sweet spot is for your patients and your practice, start by measuring the effectiveness of each contact point and contact method, then with this information, tailor your recall cycles to suit your patient base and your business.  

Last, ensuring your appointment book is set up to achieve the established effective recall. Making sure you have reactivation communication also set up as part of your overall recall strategy will further aid this success.  


Successful practices understand patient acquisition costs are high and on the rise, and general marketing is expensive and time-consuming. They invest time in setting up an ongoing, effective recall system that keeps patients coming back, making this a priority to ensure growth and business longevity. 

About the Author – Kath Lewis  

Kath Lewis is a Product Manager at Centaur Software and has 13 years of experience in the dental industry across practice management, marketing, and product management. She holds a Bachelor of Media from Macquarie University. Kath is an avid reader and cinema enthusiast, spending her spare time-consuming stories across all genres.