Although teledentistry has been available for dentists for more than a decade, most dentists didn’t take advantage of it until it became an absolute necessity, thanks to the pandemic. But teledentistry has always been revolutionary because it helps dentists remotely reach vulnerable and underserved patients regardless of where they are.
From diagnosing and treating patients virtually to scheduling periodic checkups for clients remotely, teledentistry was and still is a breakthrough in dental care. But sadly, it took the pandemic to get many dentists, patients, and even the government to take a second look at it.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, one in four adults and about 46% of adults age 30 and older have untreated tooth decay and show signs of gum disease, respectively. And as accessibility to top-notch dental care services remains a challenge for some patients, these challenges persist. The good news is that teledentistry is here to help.
With advances in information and communications technology and the COVID-19 pandemic requiring people to stay at home and reduce physical and close contact, traditional dental care can and should evolve. Now, most clinicians are aware of teledentistry and ready to engraft it into their practice.
The challenge of traditional dentistry during the pandemic is one of the significant reasons why teledentistry is becoming popular. With teledentistry, people can schedule online appointments with their dentists. Dentists can now virtually check their patients and even carry out treatments to some extent, reducing the need for patients to visit the dental clinic in person.
Education and Advantages
Teledentistry is an evolving field that leverages information technology for consultation, a certain treatment level, and general public health awareness. Online and in-person courses about teledentistry will introduce you to digital imaging’s latest innovations, including radiology, computed radiography, digital photography, fluoroscopy, and virtual dental technologies.
You’ll also be introduced to the importance of collaboration in virtual and physical dental practices. Likewise, you’ll get to access the clinical process of teledentistry using actual case studies while receiving training and hands-on experience. In addition to the clinical portions of these courses, you will be exposed to important telesales, telepractice, and technical skills in teledentistry as well.
There are a lot of reasons why teledentistry will play a significant role in the next phase of dentistry’s evolution.
First, teledentistry helps reduce unnecessary visits to the dental office. This helps keep dentists and their patients alike safe when social distancing is advised. Also, it reduces patients’ wait time for emergency dental care needs.
Teledentistry reduces physical clinical interactions when avoidable as well as waiting time for dental appointments. It additionally helps create premium dental awareness at individual and public levels. Furthermore, it is a cheaper, easier, and faster way to provide access to dentists in a friendly approach.
Additionally, teledentistry removes the stress of going for a physical examination, improving the quality of service offered by the dentist. Teledentistry can provide accessible services like pre-surgery screenings, pediatric and preventive care, emergency service, consultations, and oral examinations. For example, patients can choose the best teeth aligners that suit them the most without leaving their homes.
Another unique advantage of teledentistry is that geographical distance (or inaccessibility) doesn’t stand as a barrier in consultations. Patients can receive dental consultations across continents without any reduction in service quality. For instance, if your patients live in a remote area where they can’t access you, they can easily have appointments with you using teledentistry accessibility modes you set in place.
Types of Teledentistry
Two modes of teledentistry, synchronous and asynchronous, have been influential in teledentistry’s evolution.
Synchronous teledentistry is one of the most practical approaches. It involves live video chats between the dentist and the patient. Patients are first connected to a general dentist who listens to their complaints and proffers likely solutions or offers insight.
Depending on the patient’s needs, the dentist might need to refer the patient to an expert specialist who can address the specific dental problem. This approach ensures that patients get the proper treatment and receive medical attention from a specialist.
The asynchronous approach doesn’t necessarily involve live video. People who don’t have access to internet facilities to facilitate live video chats usually go for this option. This method consists of transferring the result of a patient’s dental examination by a licensed practitioner to a consulting teledentist using available electronic channels.
The teledentist then goes through the results, makes a diagnosis or prognosis, and recommends what the patient should do later. Unlike the synchronous approach, this approach isn’t conducted in real-time, but it is equally effective.
Mobile health or mHealth refers to how people can use their mobile devices to stay healthy via monitoring and treatment, including oral health. Until recently, mHealth only has been used to educate people about oral health.
Phone and tablet apps, however, now bring a diagnostic approach to teledentistry. For instance, Teledentix offers personalized tools that help both dentists and patients book appointments, get treatment options, and receive continued care.
Although mHealth is still developing, it’s expected to come to the forefront of teledentistry in the nearest future.
Dentists who know about teledentistry, who are training for it, and who are already using it seem to be thriving. So, are you aware of teledentistry? Are you using it in your practice? If you haven’t started, now is the time. You don’t have to make a drastic switch. Try it one step at a time until you find your bearing. You’ll be glad you did.
The evolving field of teledentistry helps people learn more about their oral health via phone calls and video chats. This has made it possible for dentists to provide consultations and proffer solutions without the need for physical appointments.
Although the field is still developing, it holds a lot of promise. Virtual platforms where dentists can provide proper dental care to patients can offer numerous benefits that will have long-lasting impacts on dentistry beyond the pandemic. This potential to revolutionize dental care in the near future is why teledentistry is fast becoming the next step in dental care’s evolution.
Ms. Agrella is a content writer in medicine and research. She is currently studying and working as a medical assistant. Her work is usually for medical and dental magazines. She is also a blogger who writes exclusively about healthcare. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.