5 Ways to Reactivate Dental Patients in 2021

5 Ways to Reactivate Dental Patients in 2021

We all know it. Reactivating previous dental patients is more cost-effective than recruiting new patients. Since COVID-19 shuttered most dental practices for two or more months in 2020, many dental practices experienced an influx of patients when they re-opened, but without consistent follow-up and a reactivation plan their appointments have now dwindled.

As your clinic heads into 2021, it’s time to start with fresh goals and a recommitment to reactivation. Most reactivation strategies involve some combination of common tactics, but for your plan to work someone must take ownership of it. Work together with your team to determine who will take charge of what part of your plan, then follow up with them regularly to ensure it’s being done.

To start, figure out how far back you want to go. Most clinics will attempt to reactivate patients who haven’t been in for 12-18 months. Once you have a list, it’s simple as applying your strategy. 

Phone Calls for the Win

Few of your staff really want to be a telemarketer, but phone calls remain the number one way to reactivate former patients. Small clinics may actually find this step easier than large clinics because they likely know the patients on a more personal basis. Work together to create a script that doesn’t sound monotonous and that’s comfortable for the person making calls to deliver. Expect and plan to leave a lot of voicemails.

One key to receiving calls in return to voice mails is to ask the person to call the office back. It’s amazing how many people don’t make this simple ask as part of their script. 

More often than not, your scheduler will be the one making these phone calls. However, if your dental hygienist doesn’t have a full schedule, they along with other staff who find themselves with free time should be expected to make a certain number of calls each day as well. When a patient has received a phone call, the person making the call should note the date and response either on the patient’s online chart or on a spreadsheet or CRM set up for the sole purpose of reactivation.

Snail Mail

Not everyone will respond to a phone call. In fact, many people dislike speaking on the phone. A letter directly from the dentist and/or hygienist to the patient is the second most useful reactivation tool. Physical mailboxes do not receive near the clutter they once did. An actual letter from your clinic has a much better chance of being read than email does. Bonus points if you include envelope friendly swag like stickers or magnets.

Text Messages

If you’re not asking your patients for permission to text them with appointment reminders, you’re missing out on a great way to ensure your patients don’t miss their appointment. You may also use these numbers to send out reactivation reminders. Make it as easy as possible for your patients to respond and make an appointment directly through text message.


We love e-mail marketing. Your patient email list is one of the most valuable marketing tools you own. Like every medium, however, email has its limits. In-boxes include more clutter and noise than physical mailboxes ever did. We’d be neglectful, however, if didn’t suggest sending e-mail reminders about reactivation. Make the e-mails short, fun, and easy for response. For instance, an email subject line might be “Five Things That’s Happened at XYZ Dental Clinic Since Your Last Appointment.” These might be fun things like a hygienist’s changed his hair color or the dentist dressed up like the tooth fairy for Halloween. It may also include dental health-related items such as the patient missed clean teeth or healthy gums. Make sure your patient can schedule an appointment easily either via response to the email or through an online portal.

Facebook Messenger

You can’t message specific people through Facebook Messenger. You can, however, use paid Facebook Messenger ads to remind patients and former patients about how easy it is to make an appointment online. Be sure not to make any references about their relationship to your clinic or specific health problems. Facebook Messenger is not HIPAA secure, so your ad must stay neutral.

Bonus: Strategies

To create a successful reactivation campaign, you need a strategy to combine all these efforts without annoying the very people you want to reactivate. Start by calling those patients once a week for three weeks. Any more and you risk aggravating them and any less and it’s too infrequent to be effective. If phone calls don’t work, employ a series of emails and letters over the next three to six weeks. At the same time, schedule paid Facebook Messenger ads to reach people in your geographic area.

You may find alternating phone calls and text messages to be a more effective method than straight phone calls every week. Create a few ideas of how you’d like to follow up and test those to see what works best for both your patients and your staff. The most important thing is to not stop after one phone call unless the patient says they are not interested in returning or that they are seeing another provider.

Reactivating patients takes time, but it’s a worthwhile endeavor. If you’re struggling to create the right content or strategy, we can help. Email Hilary to brainstorm some ideas for your clinic.

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