Late Arrival Policy for Patients: How to Deal with Tardy Patients at Your Dental Practice

Late patients can impact office efficiency and other appointment times. Learn how a late arrival policy for patients can help your office stay on track.

Dental Intelligence


March 17, 2023

Does your dental practice have a late arrival policy for patients? Every dentist has them — the patients who are always late for their appointments or sometimes even don’t show up at all. It’s a problem that costs your practice time and money and often cuts into appointment times of the patients who aren’t late.

Below, we discuss how dentists can tackle tardiness head-on and how to prevent late patients and no-shows.

No-Show and Late Patient Policies for Dentists: Best Practices and Tips

Developing a late arrival policy for patients at your dental practice can be challenging if you don’t know where to start. Below are three ideas for late policies that are fairly common in the dental industry:

Dealing with Habitual Offenders

Most dental practices have a few patients who are habitual offenders and are either chronically late or don’t show up without canceling or rescheduling their appointment. You may want to implement a different late arrival policy for patients who are frequently late.

For example, will you ask them to show up ten minutes early? Or will you have a zero-tolerance policy that requires them to find another provider after three late appointments or a no-show? You may even want to tell those patients who are consistently late that their appointment time is 30 minutes before the actual time in your calendar.

In addition, you should avoid immediate rescheduling for no-show patients. If they believe they can get another appointment within a week, they’re more likely to cancel at the last minute or not show up at all. Instead, reschedule their appointments for four or six weeks in the future.

Regardless of what method you choose, determining your policies ahead of time can help you reduce stress and provide excellent customer service to every type of patient, even if they’re chronically late.

Preventing No-Shows and Late Patients

Although your dental practice should consistently enforce its late arrival policy, you can take certain steps to help prevent this issue from occurring in the first place.

Use Automated Appointment Reminders

You can reduce the number of late or no-show patients and increase dental production with Dental Intelligence. Our advanced practice management software includes features like Online Scheduling and Appointment Reminders, making it easy to confirm or reschedule patients when necessary. For example, our software updates each patient’s appointment status in real time and sends automated reminders via text or email, reducing the time your staff has to spend making phone call confirmations.

Have Every New Patient Review and Sign a Late Policy

Patients may try to claim ignorance regarding your late policy after being late or not showing up at all. To prevent this, have every new patient review and sign your late arrival policy. You can make this process fast and easy by using Digital Forms.

With our Patient Portal, your patients can access their paperwork and forms either online or through the app anytime they want. Furthermore, you should implement a “refresher” every six months by having current patients review and consent to your late arrival policy.

Decrease No-Shows with Dental Intelligence

Developing a fair and effective late arrival policy for patients can be challenging, but it’s critical for protecting your dental practice from this common issue. Of course, some patients will have legitimate reasons to cancel dentist appointments at the last minute, and sometimes you’ll have to make exceptions. However, with the various solutions available at Dental Intelligence, you can manage late arrivals and boost office efficiency. To learn more, schedule a demo of our product.

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