Watch Your Dental Practice Numbers and Avoid the Good Month, Bad Month Roller Coaster

I was talking to a dentist friend of mind at a conference who I hadn’t seen for a couple of months.

The last time I’d seen him, around the end January, I asked him how his business was doing. He smiled the biggest smile and proudly told me his office had just had one of its best months ever.

When I saw him two months later, I asked him again how his dental office is doing, expecting to hear the same good news. But this time his face went somber. It turns out the month of February was the worst month ever for his office and he was no longer the same happy dentist I had seen the last time. What a shame that his outlook could shift so much in just a couple of months.

Our conversation got me thinking about many of my dental friends and how they feel about their offices based on the month prior or the current month. ONE MONTH THEY’RE HAPPY AND THE NEXT MONTH THEY’RE REELING. How frustrating this must be. The cycle repeats itself throughout the entire year.

Let me explain why this happens. And then I’ll show you how to start monitoring your dental practice.

Each month has a set number of days. It varies from month to month. January has 31 days and then the next month only has 28. That is a difference of three days of production. Then, the day the month starts can also change the number of days the office has to produce.

If it’s a short month and the first day of the month is a Saturday, there are even fewer days to produce if your office is open Mondays through Fridays.

In addition to that, some months have those pesky holidays. Holidays are important and fun, but as a business owner they can wreak havoc on your ability to hit production goals.

Holidays mean there are one or two days fewer to produce, and the days before and after the holiday are also quite different. Typically, during the few days before a holiday the team moves into “vacation mode,” which means less focus on work and more focus on the upcoming time off.

There is also an increase in patient cancellations leading up to the vacation because they either decide to leave town early for the holiday or they realize they can’t take more time off work. And let’s not even talk about what happens after a holiday weekend, when patients seem to forget they have appointments altogether.

There is always a rash of cancellations around holidays.

Since every other month is usually shorter than the one before, the number of days you can produce will always fluctuate.

There is one major holiday in each quarter—May, July, September, November, and December. Just when you think things are trending in the right direction, a holiday pops up to cause mayhem to your month. No wonder dentists are up and down when it comes to their practices. It can feel like a never-ending roller coaster.

My suggestion is simple.

As the owner of the business, you should still set monthly goals. But, in terms of evaluating how well your office is doing, I suggest looking only at the quarterly numbers.

Each quarter has a major holiday and a similar number of days, including both long and short months. Looking at financial progress and production by quarter levels the playing field.

By evaluating your practice by quarter, you can avoid the roller coaster month to month. Set your monthly goals and review them quarterly to see the big picture.

Laura Nelson

Laura Nelson, BS, MS, FAADOM is the founder and driving force behind Front Office Rocks, and the leading provider of on-demand virtual training and resources for dental practices.