Data Mining for Dentists


Striking Gold with Your Practice Management Software.
If we keep doing what we’re doing, we’re going to keep getting what we’re getting.” Steven R. Covey, educator and author of The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, spent decades consulting with and advising people about reaching their goals. Covey’s quote is true for both businesses and individuals, and applies directly to dental practices.

From my travels as a dental practice coach, I’ve seen firsthand many dental practices doing the same things day after day. Not surprisingly, their results are the same, too. For dental practices not content with the status quo, it’s often difficult to know how to change or which direction to go.

Many dental offices are unaware that there are resources available at their fingertips! Dental software programs such as Dentrix, Eaglesoft, and others can yield a windfall of valuable data for your practice. However, most dental practices only use a few software reports (if any) and leave a lot of useful information unutilized. Instead of just using the software for simple scheduling and storing X-ray files, take some time to learn about several reports that can transform your practice.

Data In, Data Out
Jim Bergeson, president and CEO of Bridgz Marketing Group in Minneapolis, MN, said, “Data will talk to you if you’re willing to listen.” Dentists can learn about the financial health of their practice by running a few reports. Dentists or assigned team members should regularly run these reports: End of Day Deposit, Month-to-Date Production, Accounts Receivable, and Unscheduled Lists.

Once you are regularly using these basic reports, how do you take your practice to the next level? The answer can be found with the help of your software. Most dental software offers a plethora of specialized reports that can help dentists understand their business better.

But the answer to transforming a dental practice is not found in the data alone. Making a measurable change in your practice means you are willing to act upon the information that you find. You can easily take your practice to the next level by acting on patterns of information in specialized dental software reports. With all reports, you should keep three main steps in mind:

Step One: Find the data. In order for data to be discoverable, you or your team members need to input data on a regular basis. If the data is undiscoverable, it won’t be much help. Therefore, it’s important to be proficient at whatever software system you are using. Your team members should be trained on how to use the software so they understand how to enter pertinent data. Then dentists should implement oversight to ensure the data is entered on a consistent basis. Remember, data cannot be found if it was never entered in the first place.

Step Two: Understand the data. Once you find a report, how do you read it? What does it mean? The second step is understanding what the data means for your practice.

Both Dentrix and Eaglesoft show “benchmarks” in many reports. Benchmarks are industry averages, and they show dentists and team members how other dental practices are performing. But keep in mind that your practice is not average—you want your practice to be above average in every way.

Step Three: Make the data actionable. Once you can see patterns demonstrated by the data, and once you understand what those patterns mean for your practice, think about a strategy that will advance the goals of your practice, capitalizing on your findings.

Here are six essential reports that, if used correctly, can improve productivity for your practice and take your business to the next level.

Practice Statistics/Patient Analysis Report
Knowing the median age of your patients can help you decide where to allocate your marketing budget. For example, patients who are 45 years and older are more apt to need dentistry redone—their fillings have likely outlived their usefulness, or they may now need implants. If a report shows that 60 percent of your patient base consists of young adults—between the ages of 20 to 40 years old—it’s great because those patients will need a dentist for many years to come.

However, if a dentist has “young” patients and he or she decides to do implants, then the report is a good signal that the practice should look at possibly marketing to an older demographic, thereby attracting patients who are more apt to need implants in the near future.

Do you know the median age of your patient base? Running a Practice Statistics Report in Dentrix (see Figure 1), or a Patient Analysis Report in Eaglesoft on a quarterly basis will keep you informed and updated on your patient demographic. In both Dentrix and Eaglesoft, the reports show ages up to 100 years.

In Dentrix:
To generate the Practice Statistics Report, from the Office Manager, go to Reports > Management > Practice Statistics Report. The report is sent directly to the batch processor.

In Eaglesoft:
To generate the report, go to Reports > Patients > Patient Analysis Report.

Once you generate this report, you can develop strategies for marketing to your patients. As an example, a dental practice launched a marketing plan for implants based on the data in the Practice Statistics Report. As part of the initiative, everyone in the office wore badges that read, “Ask Me About Implants!” Each team member was also trained to use specific verbiage when a patient asked about implants. It was a simple strategy to let patients know about the dentist’s advanced skills, and it capitalized on the patients’ needs.

If your dental practice has a median patient age that skews younger, make sure your team is active on social media. Post regularly to Facebook and Twitter and make sure that you have good online reviews. (For more information on Internet marketing tips, read “Out of Site, Out of Mind,” Aesthetic Dentistry, Spring 2015, available at

The Referral Analysis Report
Understanding where referrals come from is important for every practice. The Referral Analysis Report (see Figure 2) lets you know how new patients found out about you. It also shows you how much production was generated from each referral.

For example, if you want to know how much production was generated from a marketing campaign, ad, mailer, or a Google search, you can find such data using this report. This way, you can learn about the ROI (return on investment) from a particular marketing source.

The Referral Analysis Report offers information that can help dentists decide what is working in terms of marketing, what is not working in terms of marketing, and where to allocate the marketing budget.

As the name suggests, this report is where you find information about referrals (remember, your team must enter the appropriate data into the database in order for this report to yield useful information). A Referral Analysis Report shows which patients are sending the most business to your dental practice.

Another team I know implemented a “Thank you” (or reward) program for high-referral patients. On the first referral, they sent a handwritten thank-you note to the referring patient. On subsequent referrals, the practice would write a thank-you note and include movie tickets or a gift card for a favorite restaurant. Some dental offices send referring patients a bouquet of flowers with a thank-you note.

It’s up to you how you customize the program for your needs. If you find that such programs increase patient referrals, consider formalizing a marketing-reward program based on the number of referrals.

Some dental practices incentivize employees to increase referrals, too. Ask team members to hand out official practice business cards with their name on the back, and when a new patient brings it in, the employee gets a reward and the patient gets a free tube of whitening, or some other such reward. Dentists can be creative, based on what incentives bring in the most business.

When implementing reward programs, be sure to track the reward system in your software. Again, remember that this report will not be beneficial if the data entry is not done consistently and accurately. Run this report every two to three days in order to reward patients and team members in a timely fashion.

In Dentrix:
To generate the Referral Analysis Report: go to Office Manager tab> go to Reports > Management > Referred By Doctor/Other Report (Source of Referral).
For patient referrals: from the Office Manager > go to Reports > Management > Referred By Patient Report. For additional details about running this report, see Dentrix Help.

In Eaglesoft:
In Eaglesoft, “Referral Reports” contains a subset of 14 different reports, including Referred Patients, Referral Sources Master, plus many more. Go to Reports > Referral tab > Select Report > Process.

Cancellation/No Show Rates Report
A chief complaint among dental practices is the cancellation/no show rate. If the data in this report is acted upon, you can largely overcome this common problem. The cancellation/no show report should be run once or twice a month, unless there’s a chronic problem with cancellations (in which case, team members should run the report weekly).

I recommend creating your own “dummy” codes in the system to track no-shows, cancelled and rescheduled day of appointments, failed confirmed appointments, and cancelled but not rescheduled day of appointments. These “fake” codes aren’t actual American Dental Association codes, but they are helpful in understanding and documenting why there was a cancellation or no-show.

In Eaglesoft, dental teams have two choices to identify when an appointment is cancelled—“failed” or “rescheduled.” It’s helpful to drill down on more information (cancelled day of appointment, cancelled and rescheduled, cancelled and did not reschedule, etc.). The value of these different entries is vital to be able to pull a report for a specific time period, just like any procedure code, and to measure the type and frequency of these codes.

It is the responsibility of the team member who takes the call from the patient to document what happened in the patient’s history, noting which code applies to that appointment and providing additional notes on that entry (including the team member’s initials), if the software allows.

For example, if a patient calls on the day of the appointment to cancel and reschedule a recare appointment, the team member may learn that the patient’s child needed to go to the hospital. Instead of just marking “cancellation/no show,” it’s important to put the reason for the cancellation in the notes.

In such a scenario, use the code for cancel and reschedule day of appointment, along with the appropriate provider (hygienist or doctor) code, and then write a note in that entry explaining that the patient had an emergency. Why is that important? With the additional information, your team members can respond appropriately for each circumstance.

Patients who regularly cancel/no show tend not to keep their appointments because they do not see the value in them. Therefore, after seeing a pattern of cancellations among several patients, it’s worthwhile to ask, “Are we creating value prior to their next scheduled appointment?”

Sometimes cancellations are a problem because the dental office simply responds to them with, “Oh that’s okay,” and immediately sets up another appointment for the canceller.

If that’s the case, look at possibly retraining team members to help patients understand the value in keeping dental appointments. Instead of saying, “It’s okay,” say, “I thought I was busy but you are definitely a busy person! So let’s do this, on a day when you know you are available, give me a call first thing in the morning, and we will see if we can get you in that day.“

Many dental offices only have a vague idea of how many cancellations and no-shows are in their office. Make sure that you are regularly checking to see how many cancellations are in your practice—and always note the reasons why.

Insurance Aging Report
When filing insurance claims for your dental practice, be proactive! Do not wait for insurance companies to send you notification of a claim that has been rejected. Outstanding money becomes less valuable as time goes by because of the time it takes to collect it. In Dental Economics Deborah Engelhardt-Nash wrote, “Collection experts estimate the value of every dollar owed past 90 days is worth 10 cents.”

The Insurance Aging Report (see Figure 3) should be run by an assigned team member every week. Insurance companies have deadlines for submitting claims in order to be reimbursed—and these deadlines are getting shorter and shorter. Some insurance companies set deadlines of a year from the appointment, but more and more companies are setting deadlines at six months or less.

Electronic claims generate a time-stamp that is proof that the insurance company received the claim. Mailing the claim via snail mail does not necessarily guarantee that they received the claim.

Often, the insurance company will need more information, and rather than waiting for them to ask for it, be proactive to get the reimbursement in a timely fashion.

To access the Insurance Aging Report:

In Dentrix:
From the Office Manager tab > go to Reports > Ledger > Insurance Aging Report. For additional details about running this report, see Dentrix Help.

In Eaglesoft:
From the Practice Management or Clinical menu bar > go to Reports > Insurance > select the desired report.

Once you can see how many claims are due, set aside time to call the insurance companies and follow up on those claims. When calling an insurance company, review several claims at once. Try to review as many outstanding claims as possible on the call—although some insurance companies limit the number of claims per call. Be persistent and keep calling until all outstanding claims are paid.

If the number of insurance claims is overwhelming, start working on the oldest claims first. Call on claims that are 90 days past due, then 60 days past due, and so on. Schedule time to make these calls—don’t leave it to chance or it probably won’t get done. Offices that are caught up on insurance claims can schedule just a couple of days a month—on the 15th and the 30th of the month, for example—to call on outstanding insurance claims.

Periodontal Therapy Report
According to recent findings from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), half of Americans aged 30 years or older have periodontitis, an advanced form of periodontal disease. In other words, approximately 64.7 million Americans have periodontitis. In adults aged 65 years and older, prevalence rates increase to 70.1 percent.

Run the production by procedure code report for a six-month period for all of your hygiene by codes from 4000 to 4999. Total all of those procedures done by your hygienist in that time period. In this same time period, total all of the production performed by your hygienist. Calculate the ratio of your periodontal procedures done against your hygiene total production. What is your percentage?

Once you have assessed your percentage of periodontal procedures, you can see how much business you should be doing based on the industry average or benchmark. Remember that you want your practice to be above average! Do you have a strong periodontal program to offer to patients?

With today’s knowledge of the importance of periodontal health for your patients, and the liability that falls on the dentist, it’s extremely important to have a periodontal program in your practice. This report should be run monthly, along with your other monthly reports.

In Dentrix:
To run this report, from the Office Manager > Analysis > Practice > Reports > Summary Reports (make sure Production Summary is checked, but remove the check from By Category). Choose Procedure Code Range and run all 4000 codes by each hygienist, or all together.

As an alternative, check out the following YouTube video, which shows you step-by-step instructions for generating this report.

In Eaglesoft:
Go to Reports > Services > Service Type Productivity > Detailed.

If you don’t have a strong periodontal program in your practice, look for continuing educational (CE) training opportunities. The American Academy of Periodontology (AAP) and other organizations offer CE courses specifically for periodontics.

Audit Trail/End of Day
Finally, at the end of the day, review what has been done and make sure everything is correct. Performing a daily Audit Trail Report can help your practice avoid potential difficulties later on.

In most practices, the audit trail should be performed only by the dentist. If you have an extremely trusted employee, then perhaps he or she can run this report and share the information with the doctor.

The Audit Trail Report should be compared to the activities of the day so you can see whether or not your practice is balancing production, adjustments, and collections. The Audit Trail Report should be used with the End of Day Report.

To access this report, the user must have a password that is secure and confidential so that the software tracks employee activities. Due to the sensitive nature of the Audit Trail, contact Dentrix or Eaglesoft (or whatever software you use) support to learn how to properly and securely set up passwords and rights.

The End of Day Report or Day Sheet (see Figure 4) should be run every day by your front desk team members. This report can be run either at the end of the business day or the following morning.

The report shows the procedures that were entered that day. It should be reviewed by the dentist to see if he or she notices any discrepancies. Dentists (or team members) should fix the report if it is missing bitewings, periapicals, panolipses, scans, or if the wrong teeth are marked, etc.

The dentist or team member should also look for errors in payments entered, adjustments entered, clinical notes entered, and new patient data. I cannot stress enough how important it is to check and correct this documentation.

In Dentrix:
From the Office Manager > go to Reports > Management > Day Sheet (Charges and Receipts). For additional instructions on how to run this report, see Dentrix Help.

In Eaglesoft:
Go to Reports. Find each individual report and filter by “range of end of days.” Select the End of Day that you need to print reports for. Then select Preview Report.

Unfortunately, unintended mistakes happen in every office. And even worse, sometimes mistakes are intentional. By performing an audit trail regularly, the temptation to act dishonestly is removed from among your employees. Using the report regularly can help immediately flag any problems or discrepancies that should be addressed.

Don’t neglect the capabilities in your dental software! By running these six reports in your practice on a regular basis, you can track your goals and steadily improve. The data found in these reports will help your practice to not just survive, but to thrive.

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Trish Jorgensen has been working in the dental industry for more than 35 years. In July 2017, she succeeded Tawana Coleman as a Practice Development Coach for the Total Team Training seminars with the Dr. Dick Barnes Group. She can be reached at


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