Assessing the effectiveness of text messages as appointment reminders in a pediatric dental setting

Travis M. Nelson, Joel H. Berg, Janice F Bell, Penelope J. Leggott, Ana Lucia Seminario

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

32 Scopus citations


Background. Text messaging is a dominant form of communication in our society. However, little research has been conducted to evaluate its effectiveness as an appointment reminder in the dental setting. Methods. From the patient pool of the pediatric dentistry clinic at the University of Washington, Seattle, the authors invited 543 caregiver/child dyads who met eligibility criteria to participate in this study. They randomly assigned 318 pairs (59 percent response) to receive a short message service (SMS) text message (n = 158) or a voice message (control group) (n = 160) as an appointment reminder. Results. Younger caregivers were more likely to be nonattendees than were older caregivers (P = .02). Participants in the voice message group had a lower no-show attendance (8.2 percent) than did those in the text message group (17.7 percent) (P = .01). The unadjusted odds ratio (OR) for type of appointment reminder and noshow attendance was 2.41 (P = .01). After the authors adjusted for the caregiver's age, the OR was 2.12 (P = .04). Conclusions. SMS text messages were not as effective as voice reminders for patients in a dental school pediatric dentistry clinic. Future studies should investigate the effect of text message reminders when limited to patients who self-select that type of reminder and in patient populations outside the university setting. Clinical Implications. Text messaging may not be the preferable method of reminding patients about appointments in a university pediatric dental clinic.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)397-405
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of the American Dental Association
Issue number4
StatePublished - Apr 2011
Externally publishedYes


  • Appointment reminder
  • Pediatric dentistry
  • Practice management
  • Short message service text
  • Technology
  • Telephone

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Dentistry(all)


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