Last updated on April 3rd, 2021 at 12:08 pm

Don’t you just love last minute hygiene openings?

You have a great day scheduled today, and then you listen to your voicemail…

“Hi, this is Mr. Smith (who you confirmed two days ago).  I can’t come in for my cleaning today at 11 because I’m stuck at work. I’ll call later to reschedule. Bye!”

You call Mr. Smith and…he’s in a meeting.

And maybe Mr. Smith just can’t make things work – or maybe he could. In any event it really doesn’t matter. You’re still stuck with an 11 AM opening. So, what do you do?

Chances are, you have some procedure to follow: You might call the “quick call” or “ready” list of people who can come in sooner. Or the “Executive” list – people that you won’t block an appointment time for because they keep rescheduling (which Mr. Smith might be at risk of joining now if this has happened more than once). And sometimes you fill the opening and sometimes you don’t.

With that in mind, I’ve compiled a list – in sequence – put together from some of our most successful clients as to how they fill that last-minute opening. Of course, some of this is going to be familiar – and that’s OK. What I like about this list is that it’s in SEQUENCE. i.e. start here and go to the next step if the last one didn’t work.

This is an excerpt from the Scheduling Coordinator Training Course on our online training platform, DDS Success. DDS Success trains every team member in your dental office on their job with simple, highly-engaging video courses delivered by some of the top dentists and management experts in the country. It makes dental team training and practice growth easy! Each of your team members will receive their own personalized account, so you can all do the training right there in your office on your own schedule.

You can schedule a free demo of our online training platform here:

(Related: A “Full” Schedule is Not Always a Productive Schedule)

Also, we have a FREE e-book available for you to download! It’s all about how to have a productive hygiene department. You can click here to download it now.

And with that, I give you:



  1. While you do each of these steps, it’s critical that you have the patient’s information/chart handy, whether it’s in your software or an actual physical chart. And you should have always read/reviewed the chart prior to doing any of these steps – especially as it relates to a patient’s schedule in hygiene.
  2. Always check the chart prior to moving or rescheduling patients (especially those patients with dental insurance to ensure it’s been at least six months since their last cleaning. In many cases, if it hasn’t they won’t be covered. So…don’t do it.
  3. Today is the MOST important day on the hygiene (and doctor’s) schedule. Tomorrow is the next most important day – and so on. Time can be your friend or enemy with regards to filling an opening. The longer you have until the opening the easier it is to fill; tomorrow’s (or the day after’s) opening is easier to fix than one at 11 AM this morning. So, if you have to pull appointments closer to the present – that’s a far preferable alternative to an empty/non-productive slot.

(Related: 3 Techniques to Improve Employee Phone Skills)


STEP 1: Look at the doctor’s schedule to see if anyone that day needs a cleaning. If it’s a patient without insurance, the timing might have a small degree of wiggle room, for example, it might not be a huge issue if they get in a week earlier than 6 months. Obviously, we’re not going to be ridiculous with this and have them get cleaned 1-2 months early – but a week probably isn’t a disaster.  And to your surprise, you may also find patients that are overdue for hygiene and are on the doctor’s schedule that day. Preferably you’re looking for someone that’s coming in to see the doctor around the time of the hygiene opening – before or after.  But, you also might find someone who lives close and has the day off that can do both!

STEP 2. See if any of the patients already scheduled in hygiene (such as a patient receiving gum treatment – i.e. Scaling/Root Planing, or a New Patient Initial that the Hygienist normally wouldn’t have time to do a prophy on that day), that can have their next step done by the hygienist – i.e. next quad of scaling or a New Patient getting their prophy.

STEP 3: Now pull your “ready/last minute” call list (your list of people who can come in earlier if needed) and try one of them. Go from top to bottom.

STEP 4:  Now, pull your “Executive” list – i.e. patients who are not to be pre-scheduled due to inconsistency in attendance and try one of them.

STEP 5. Look at the hygiene schedule for tomorrow, the day after and so on through next week and see if there is someone in the same or similar time slot that could be moved up. Again, ensure that the appointment stays 6 months or more from their last cleaning or the patient loses insurance benefits. Best to check this BEFORE you call and don’t bother calling someone who doesn’t fit these criteria.

STEP 6: Review recent cancellations and/or no-shows and see if one of them could fill the slot.

STEP 7: Call your recall list (i.e. patient’s due for a cleaning that are not scheduled) for this and the previous month.

STEP 8: If you begin to run out of time, attempt to move the patients scheduled to come in after your opening up.  You could move the 12 PM hygiene patient up to 11 AM or the 2PM patient up to 11 AM and so on), to allow yourself more time to fill the opening.

STEP 9: If you have exhausted all of the above – now call the overdue/reactivation list. The worst-case scenario is you don’t fill the opening – but you’ll at least schedule some patients!

(Related: How to Create First-Class Customer Service in a Dental Office)

If you go through all nine steps above and still end up with an opening – well…you gave it your all! And chances are through all those calls you scheduled more patients – well done! You may have even filled a few openings you had over the next few days.

So, there you have it. Like with everything we teach, take what you can out of this and see what you are most comfortable applying. To learn the full MGE Scheduling System, you have two options:

  1. Attend the MGE Scheduling For Production Seminar. You’ll learn how to eliminate cancellations and no-shows, produce 40% more in less time, make your production goals every month, and run on-time every day.
  2. Sign up for our online training platform, DDS Success. This provides training for your entire team on systems for scheduling, hygiene and recall, phone skills, billing, insurance, case acceptance, management, marketing and more. Visit www.ddssuccess.com and schedule a free demo today!

I’d also love to hear your thoughts!  Anything you would change or steps you would add to this list? Share in the comments below!

I hope this helped, have fun with it and here’s to a FULL and productive schedule!

Also, don’t forget, we offer a free e-book all about how you can have a profitable hygiene department! Fill out the form below to download now:

Sabri Blumberg provides this general dental practice management advice to furnish you with suggestions of actions that have been shown to have potential to help you improve your practice. Neither MGE nor Ms. Blumberg may be held liable for adverse actions resulting from your implementation of these suggestions, which are provided only as examples of topics covered by the MGE program.


5 Responses to “9 Ways to Fill That Last-Minute Hygiene Opening”

  1. Benjamin Joy

    The only point I disagree on is moving patients up on the schedule (Step 8). In our office, this is called “Musical Appointments” and it is prohibited. An appointment is an agreement we make with our patients and we find most patients don’t appreciate us trying to change the terms of the agreement.

    • Adam Mortimer

      Hi Benjamin,

      You raise a great point! We absolutely don’t want to be moving patients around on the schedule for our own convenience or taking their appointment times away from them. Some patients would prefer to come in earlier, so we are willing to occasionally check with a patient to see if they are interested (in a very friendly manner). Obviously, if the patient prefers to keep their original appointment time, of course they can keep it because it is their time. And we try to use this approach sparingly, because it can definitely become an annoyance to patients if they’re constantly being asked if they’d like to come in earlier.

  2. ruben albarracin

    this is great ,we in this industry need to have the info that help us to run our practices with the intention to improve.Thanks a lot.

  3. Janitza Rivera

    Excellent sequence, this is how I was taught by you many years ago!!! To other people please follow the sequence it does work!!


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