A New Era with Teledentistry
The world is continuously changing because of technology, but what does this mean for dentists? Teledentistry is the creation of virtual contact in order to treat patients. Dentists can now meet with patients online through video conferencing, text messages, online portals, and even by phone. These appointments can happen anywhere, and anytime. Appointments at home in jogging pants and blankets? Yes, please! Teledentisty can provide urgent help to patients who might otherwise go to the emergency department, which then takes the strain off emergency staff. In the current climate of restrictions and travel complications, Teledentistry can ensure that patients still get the care they need. Not knowing exactly what the future holds, we know Teledentistry will continue to offer practical solutions for many years to come.
What Dental Services Can Use Teledentistry?
The appointments provided in a virtual setting can help replace emergency room appointments as stated above, and improve ongoing oral health education, and pre-op and post-op consultations. This means dentists can prescribe antibiotics and other medications required for surgery or emergencies until they can see their own dentist or find a local one. Basically, this helps bridge the gap in a timely manner.
While you can’t drill a cavity or clean teeth over a Zoom meeting, we can use a virtual dental appointment for:
- To prescribe emergency pain medication or antibiotics so that a patient can get relief immediately, outside of office hours.
- To evaluate the condition of a dental appliance for orthodontics using either live video or still photos from the patient’s camera.
- To oversee the work of a hygienist working off-site, such as in a prison, school, or nursing home.
- To allow patients in remote areas to consult with dental specialists without driving into the city.
- To present treatment plans and financing options after an initial in-office examination or consultation.
- To have an intake appointment for a new patient.
- To give patients advice on home care or after-surgery routines.
- To recommend treatments to patients such as specific toothbrushes or oral rinses, and to check up on patient compliance and experiences with these treatments.
Are you unsure if your patients would like the option of telemedicine for these appointments? Ask them! Coronavirus has introduced many Americans to the technology, so more people will consider Teledentistry as an option for their care.
What are the Benefits of Teledentistry?
Teledentistry benefits both practices and patients. Dental practices can reach patients who have irregular schedules or difficulty traveling to expand their reach in the community. In addition, offering some services outside an office environment can reduce the numbers of people in the office at one time, reducing COVID-19 risk. For instance,
- A treatment coordinator might work from home and do case conferences through a video chat app.
- Patients who fail a COVID-19 symptom screen can receive urgent dental care and prescriptions at home, with instructions to follow-up after they’re cleared to come into the office.
- Since enhanced cleaning procedures take time, seeing some less serious consults by video can free up more chair time for cases that need to be in the office. For example, a parent concerned about an erupting tooth’s position can send a photo of their child’s mouth instead of bringing the child into the office for what will be a 5-minute check-up.
Patients also benefit from Teledentistry. Being seen remotely saves them gas, time off from work, and travel time. This can be especially important for people working in service industries where PTO is limited, or for people who live in rural areas who travel long distances for specialty care.
Evening and weekend Teledentistry hours can give people an alternative to emergency room care for after-hours dental emergencies. This saves time, money, and provides better care since most ERs do not have a dental specialist on staff.
Finally, patients with anxiety may benefit from Teledentistry, since it gives them an opportunity to receive care and get to know the office team outside the scary environment of a dental office. By scheduling remote consultations for a first visit, the office team can ease anxious patients into the practice, and plan for sedation dentistry if necessary.
Will Teledentistry Still be Popular After the Pandemic?
Teledentistry will be around long after current restrictions cease. While it took COVID-19 for telemedicine to become popular, many patients and practitioners now appreciate the virtual appointments – and insurers have become willing to reimburse for them! As more and more people gain experience in teleconferencing, Teledentistry will become a normal service offered by practices throughout North America. Are you ready to add it to your practice?