What is Tele-Dentistry?
- What is telehealth and teledentistry?
Telehealth is not a specific service; it refers to a broad variety of technologies and tactics to deliver virtual medical, health, and education services. As an umbrella term, it is further defined when applied to specific health care disciplines, such as dentistry.
Teledentistry, according to the ADA’s Comprehensive Policy Statement on Teledentistry, refers to the use of telehealth systems and methodologies in dentistry. Teledentistry can include patient care and education delivery using, but not limited to, the following modalities:
• Live video (synchronous): Live, two-way interaction between a person (patient, caregiver, or provider) and a provider using audiovisual telecommunications technology.
• Store-and-forward (asynchronous): Transmission of recorded health information (for example, radiographs, photographs, video, digital impressions and photomicrographs of patients) through a secure electronic communications system to a practitioner, who uses the information to evaluate a patient’s condition or render a service outside of a real-time or live interaction.
• Remote patient monitoring (RPM): Personal health and medical data collection from an individual in one location via electronic communication technologies, which is transmitted
Teledentistry During a Global Pandemic and Beyond
In 2020, the world faced one of the worst pandemics it has ever seen. With this pandemic gripping the country, many people are looking for creative, safer alternatives to their usual routines. The healthcare industry has fared admirably with the rise of telehealth services and, in particular, teledentistry. With the improvement in virtual dental services, dentists are in a position to continue helping patients without the need for them to be on-site for their appointment. During this pandemic, and even in the future, dental care doesn’t need to be out of reach with teledentistry here to help.
How Teledentistry Can Help During a Pandemic?
Teledentistry is a broad term that encompasses a whole range of virtual and contactless dental services. Some services that are particularly useful to patients during a pandemic might include:
Virtual visits through video or voice services
Prescription of medication
Other contactless dental services
While these services are always convenient, they can be life saving during a pandemic. Not having to leave your home to receive dental care helps us all obey social-distancing guidelines and stay safe during a pandemic.
Social Distancing With Teledentistry
The most significant benefit of teledentistry during a pandemic is how it encourages people to stay home. Accessing dental care and advice from anywhere is key to reducing the spread of a virus, and still allows patients to keep up with their dental care.
Dental offices are naturally very intimate places. You’re in close contact with the dentist and hygienists, as well as other patients that may be waiting. This type of close-contact situation is what we should strive to avoid, as it dramatically increases the risk of spreading a virus.
Teledentistry, being a remote service, neatly removes the need to be in the office and prevents the increased risk of spreading the virus throughout your community. It also gives patients access to services such as prescriptions for medications and guidance regarding other dental needs at home, saving them from going out into public.
Teledentistry allows us to stay safe and social distance even when working closely with a dental professional. Your oral health doesn’t need to take a back seat even during a pandemic.
Other Benefits of Teledentistry During a Pandemic
While the remote services teledentistry offers are a large part of its appeal, it also has a wide range of other benefits for patients. They include:
Reduced costs for patients who might be out of work during a pandemic
Improved access to care for those staying home
Straightforward second opinions from experts around the world
It’s easy to see how this variety of benefits makes teledentistry very appealing to a broad range of patients and has caused teledentistry to steadily gain traction for the past few years. Add to that, the absolute need for teledentistry during a pandemic, and it becomes a perfect storm for rapid growth. Patients love the benefits teledentistry provides.
Protecting Dental Patients During a Health Crisis
This growth has spurred many laws as well as support from the ADA. These laws are all about protecting patients and their privacy and have done a lot to ease patient concerns. Safety is always something patients will worry about, and fortunately, that won’t be an issue for those using teledentistry services. As the industry continues to evolve, we’ll see further legislation enacted to ensure that proper care and procedures are followed by dentists — both in and outside of the office.
Teledentistry After COVID-19
While all thoughts are on the current COVID-19 pandemic, it’s essential to know that teledentistry’s benefits will persist in future health crises. If we should find ourselves in this position again, the dental community will be better equipped to handle it.
Additionally, even once we no longer need to be concerned about the pandemic, it’s inevitable that teledentistry will remain a big part of dental care. The convenience factor and cost-saving benefits are sure to drive both dentists and patients to continue using teledentistry techniques.
Aspects such as in-car check-ins are a great way to reduce numbers in the waiting room and speed up the process. It’s also very effective in just generally reducing the spread of infection — and that will always be beneficial for those who are immunocompromised, or otherwise at risk.
We’re also likely to see continued use of electronic form filing for patients. Completing forms is a time consuming but necessary part of the visit that no one likes. Having forms pre-filled at home saves everyone time, and keeps people in the office for shorter periods. These are just two small examples of the non-pandemic benefits that all patients can enjoy.
While the current pandemic has undoubtedly forced the usage of teledentistry, patients have been steadily growing accustomed to telehealth solutions for some time. We’ll likely see this trend continue, with teledentistry remaining a significant part of dentistry for years to come.