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Running a successful dental practice takes skill, understanding, and commitment. Any successful dental practice incurs costs and requires a healthy cash flow stream to obtain beneficial revenues. After all, dentists are in business to earn a living. The number one source of cash flow comes from daily patient visits.
A large part of running a successful dental practice is ensuring the optimal number of patients are seen daily, weekly, or monthly. For most dentists, a patient base becomes the most significant source for daily visits when patient follow-up and recall are in action. However, let's take a look at what qualifies as a healthy patient base and how a patient base applies to each dental specialty.
The ideal active patient base revolves around an average of 1200 to 1500 patients for a solo dental practice with two restorative rooms and two hygiene rooms. However, there are many other considerations to take into account. For example, a dental office contracting with a PPO insurance (preferred provider organization) takes an approximate 30% to 50% reduction in fee services and, therefore, will require a higher patient base than a practice that does not contract with PPOs.
How do PPOs affect the revenue streams for dental practices?
How does Medicare/Medicaid affect revenue streams for a dental practice?
Wow! What an astounding difference. From the data above, a dental practice that does not accept Medicare or Medicaid and does not contract with PPOs can produce an optimal annual revenue stream from fee-for-service with 800 to 1000 active patients. Although you may acknowledge the average active patient base for most dentist revolve around 1200 to 1500 patients, there is more to consider.
Another consideration in determining the optimal patient base for a dental practice is within specialty practices. Most dental specialists do not maintain an active patient base. For example, oral surgeons, endodontists, periodontists, orthodontists, and prosthodontists typically provide one-time services. Although there may be some repeat patients, these practices require consistent new patients rather than relying on an active patient base.
The one exception to dental specialists who require an active patient base is found with pediatric dentists. Unlike general dentists, pediatric dentists have shorter appointment times, and patients require less dental work. Therefore a pediatric dentist typically requires a higher patient base than a general practitioner (GP). The average recommended patient base for a pediatric dental office revolves around 1500-2000 to obtain optimal profits. So naturally, required patient base numbers increase when PPOs and Medicare or Medicaid are considered in a pediatric office.
With a patient base of 1200 to 1500, from a daily perspective, a dentist may see 8-15 patients daily, while a hygienist might see about 8 patients for a total of 16-23 patients daily. An endodontist might see up to 14 patients a day. An oral surgeon might see up to 16 patients a day.
An average, well-run, solo general dental practice with two restorative rooms and two hygiene rooms should produce about $1,125,000 per year.
A dental practice will lose at least 10% of its patients annually due to relocating, insurance changes, or death. Therefore, it is vital to market your dental practice in order to obtain new patients while some existing patients drop off. The goal of an average solo general dental practice is to add twenty patients per month.
Adding a new associate to your dental practice may seem like an exciting moment that can lead to profitability and growth. However, with the information we gathered about a baseline patient base and the number of new patients needed to sustain losses, each dentist should have approximately 800 to 1200 patients, with 30 to 50 new patients added each month.