Teledentistry: A Modern Solution to Dental Care
Teledentistry is the use of technology and telecommunications for dental care, consultation, and treatment planning. More people are turning to teledentistry now as a solution to the challenges posed by COVID-19, including closed dental practices or fear of crowded medical centers. Dentists across the country are promoting teledentistry as an alternative to office appointments, as some states are still only seeing emergency cases. But for the vast majority of us who are used to thorough teeth cleanings and being viewed through dental loupes, the concept of teledentistry may be downright confusing. Let’s take a deep dive into what teledentistry can do.
Benefits of Teledentistry
Teledentistry boasts a number of advantages in a fast-paced, modern world – and especially one that has been largely shut down to prevent the spread of coronavirus. For example, teledentistry is:
- More affordable than in-person care
- More convenient to the patient, reducing travel time to zero or near-zero
- Better aligned with today’s patients’ communication preferences
- Easier to access, particularly for rural Americans
- Less disruptive to the workday; in-person appointments can take hours out of an employee’s day, despite the fact that less than 20 minutes on average are spent with the dentist and an hour with a hygeniest.
- More efficient, leaving additional appointment times open for those who really need them
Perhaps most excitingly, research shows that the quality of care and success rates of patients are the same for teledentistry and traditional dentistry. Of course, there are some procedures that can only be done in the office, but teledentistry in general is quite comprehensive.
Capabilities of Teledentistry
You might be surprised by all that dentists can do from afar. In the comfort of your own home or office, teledentistry can:
- Assess: Using photos or videos taken by the patient, as well as virtual meetings, dentists can examine the condition of your teeth remotely compared to previous dental records stored in electronic medical records.
- Prescribe: When a patient is experiencing pain and needs relief right away – for example, antibiotics to cure an abscess – dentists can prescribe the right treatment remotely and instantly, rather than leaving the patient in pain until they can come in for a physical appointment.
- Supervise: Teledentistry provides a more cost-effective method of monitoring ongoing dental treatments – orthodontics in particular. Dentists have the capability to monitor teeth movement remotely, making some inconvenient check-in appointments unnecessary.
Overall, teledentistry is an exciting alternative to in-office appointments that saves time for patients and dentists alike.
Teledentistry and COVID-19
There are several reasons why teledentistry is so crucial now in light of the COVID-19 pandemic. For one, there’s a growing need for it as dental offices across the country temporarily shut their doors. Second, it’s a great way to catch problems early and prevent patients from ending up in crowded emergency rooms with severe dental illness. Lastly, it protects senior populations – who are especially vulnerable to coronavirus – from having to travel outside the home and risk exposure. During these scary and uncertain times, we must do all that we can to protect vulnerable populations like the elderly, and teledentistry is one important way of doing so.