The COVID-19 pandemic upended the healthcare system and prompted the use of telehealth by providers in medicine, behavioral health, and oral health. Dental providers are particularly susceptible due to the aerosols generated during dental procedures that could facilitate COVID-19 transmission. This high risk resulted in the suspension of many routine dental procedures in the early days of the pandemic, severely limiting access to oral health services. Across the US, states have implemented teledentistry in response to COVID-19 in varying degrees.
With the rapidly evolving use of teledentistry, a new study conducted by the Oral Health Workforce Research Center (OHWRC) at the University at Albany’s Center for Health Workforce Studies (CHWS) conducted case studies on the use of teledentistry following the COVID-19 pandemic in 4 states—California, Maine, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin.
Key findings include:
- Regardless of the status of teledentistry in the state, teledentistry was adopted faster due to COVID-19 than it would have been otherwise.
- Emergency regulations expanding telehealth use to dentistry allowed dentists to bill codes D9995 and D9996 for synchronous and asynchronous telehealth service.
- States allowed for more liberal use of teledentistry, such as permitting the use of audio-only visits for certain services.
- Teledentistry was utilized to guide parents in the administration and application of fluoride varnish over video for their children, to triage patients, and to control clinic capacity for emergency care.
“Dentistry has been slow to take up telehealth modalities when compared to other fields, that is until the COVID-19 pandemic hit,” says OHWRC Senior Investigator Elizabeth Mertz. “By examining regulation around teledentistry and the changes brought on by the pandemic, we can develop strategic approaches for the future of oral health policy and practice.”
To view the report, visit the CHWS website at chwsny.org.
For more information about the Oral Health Workforce Research Center, visit oralhealthworkforce.org.
About the CHWS
Established in 1996, CHWS is an academic research organization, based at the School of Public Health, University at Albany, State University of New York (SUNY). The mission of CHWS is to provide timely, accurate data and conduct policy relevant research about the health workforce. The research conducted by CHWS supports and promotes health workforce planning and policymaking at local, regional, state, and national levels.
Today, CHWS is a national leader in the field of health workforce studies, and the only HRSA-sponsored center with a unique focus on the oral health workforce.
About the OHWRC
The OHWRC is supported by the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) of the US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) as part of an award totaling $450,000 with 0% financed with non-governmental sources. The content of this report are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent the official views of, nor an endorsement by, HRSA, HHS, or the US government.
For more information, please visit HRSA.gov.