“2020 presented significant challenges to dentistry and the world at large, but the year also marked a time of unprecedented growth and innovation in the teledentistry field,” said Brant Herman, MouthWatch LLC CEO and founder.
“We weren’t about to let a pandemic prevent us from recognizing this year’s Tellie Awards winners, so we hosted a great virtual event instead,” Herman said.
The Tellie Awards highlight the many ways that dentistry is being implemented across a broad spectrum of dental care including public health, private practice, and organizational settings, according to the company.
Also, the awards recognize individual, forward-thinking dental providers who are realizing the full potential for connected dental care technology and who are reshaping the practice of dentistry while improving the state of oral health across the country, MouthWatch said.
Award categories include Dentist/Specialist, Dental Hygiene, Oral Health Program, COVID-19 Response/Provider, and COVID-19 Response/Oral Health Program.
Scott Howell, DMD, MPH, of the AT Still University Arizona School of Dentistry & Oral Health was honored with the Dentist/Specialist award. He developed a robust oral health program at the school that has trained more than 300 students in how they can use teledentistry to reach a diverse patient population and evaluate digital records, MouthWatch said.
Howell’s program effectively pivoted during the pandemic by having students participate in one-week public health rotations, where they worked with diverse patients including children in detention, children and adults with special needs, low-income seniors, and men in rehabilitation and reentry programs, the company said.
Jingjing Qian, RDH, EA, of Your Special Smiles, received the Dental Hygiene award. She was instrumental in developing and implementing a COVID-19 response, The Guided Oral Hygiene Program, which continued to provide oral care to long-term care residents who otherwise would not have received these critical services, MouthWatch said.
Qian and her dentist, Dr. Brooke Fukuoka, developed the program to train caregivers in how to gather information via teledentistry. They also used teledentistry interactions to help caregivers with patient-specific oral hygiene regimens. During the pandemic, this teledentistry-enabled touchpoint was the only dental service many of these patients received for months.
The University of Rochester Eastman Institute for Oral Health won the Oral Health Program (Non-Profit or Business) Award. The Institute has published significant studies on teledentistry and has implemented the technology in oral health programs that provide care to underserved patients in the Greater Rochester region in New York, MouthWatch said.
Also, MouthWatch said, the Institute’s innovative deployment of teledentistry is part of its long experience and successful track record in designing, implementing, and sustaining community-based oral health programs, including outreach programs that have been replicated nationwide.
Barry Raphael, DMD, of the Raphael Center for Integrative Orthodontics won the award for COVID-19 Response/Provider. During the pandemic’s peak, many dental clinicians paused dental procedures and maintenance appointments. Raphael, a practicing orthodontist for more than 30 years, decided to pivot instead of pause, MouthWatch said.
Prior to the pandemic, Raphael had already been re-examining his traditional views on patient treatment and had adopted a new integrative approach. With his patients’ safety a top priority, Raphael implemented teledentistry. All intraoral photos are submitted remotely, new patient records are completed electronically, and all consultations are conducted online.
Advantage Dental of the DentaQuest Care Group won the COVID-19 Response/Oral Health Program award. Both organizations have long seen the value of teledentistry and how it can transform access to dental care, MouthWatch said. Also, Advantage Dental’s outreach and mobile programs have long supported teledentistry.
The recent teledentistry rollout across Advantage Dental’s more than 80 practice locations were even more crucial in addressing urgent care needs during the pandemic, MouthWatch said. Through virtual consultations facilitated through their providers and member service representatives, patients had access to clinical assistance when practices were open only for emergencies.
As practices reopened, Advantage Dental saw the numbers reflect that its teledentistry platform improved the patient experience, saved time for patients and providers, and helped bring convenience for patients already facing access challenges. The long-term vision to roll out teledentistry as part of its services is well underway, MouthWatch said.
“We congratulate and thank this year’s Teledentistry Innovation Awards winners for their commitment to using teledentistry technology to make a tangible difference in improving access to care,” said Herman.