TeleDentistry– After the Masks Come Off
I’m feelingpretty good. It’s two weeks past mysecond Covid-19 vaccine. It’s gotten methinking. When will I no longer need towear my mask in a crowd? And what willthis mean for teledentistry?
For the Patient
According toBecker’s Hospital Review1 in March 2020, 19.5 percent of Americanshad a telehealth appointment, whereas 61.05 percent had in March 2021. This is also true for teledentistry wheremost patients have now had a previous telehealth experience, and almost alwaysa positive one. In March 2020, 65.6percent of Americans doubted the care quality provided in telehealthappointments, but in March 2021, 87.82 percent wanted to continue usingtelehealth services after the pandemic subsides. Patients do not want to always travel fortheir medical appointments, and they do not want to wait in a (crowded?)waiting room.
Benefits arealso significant for the patient population, or specific classes of patients.The great benefit of telehealth has always been improved access. This is especially true in rural areas wherea visit to the dentist may mean a trip of many hours. The elderly, and patients with disabilitiesor special needs are most likely to benefit the most from a remote visit. There are cost reductions for patients,especially those without insurance. Insurance companies benefit by keeping patients out of the emergencyroom. Oral hygiene can be improvedreducing more serious diseases which are likely to occur if oral health issuesare ignored. A visit with a teledentistis much less intimidating for a patient who has always been afraid of what mayhappen in the dentists’ office.
For the Dentist
While thegreatest impact of Covid-19 on dental practices has been a drop in revenue, Atleast one study has reported that the drop was less than had been anticipated.2In any case, teledentistry can help to make up the difference.
Teledentistryprovides great benefits for individual dentists.
1. Use teledentistry to screen patientsand maximize chair time with those patients that need a procedure.
2. Attract and meet new patients usingteledentistry and meet them face-to-face and not behind PPE.
3. Integrate teledentistry into yourpractice management system and provide patient education and schedulingreminders.
4. Create the ability to consult with aspecialist in real time, and with the patient included.
Oneexpression that many dentists hear now is ‘mask mouth.’ Thephrase refers to a range of symptoms associated with wearing a face mask aroundyour mouth for long periods. It’s not an official diagnosis, but it’s become acommon phrase used to describe the rise in dental problems that have resultedfrom increased mask-wearing. There mayalso be specific procedure (like teeth whitening) that become even more popularas patients no longer “put off” procedure and plan to return to their regularroutines.
There arealso benefits for specific groups of dentists, namely those recently retired ordentists who have become disabled. Whata great way to continue to use the skills developed over a lifetime of practicewithout the burden of managing an office.
Teledentistry is one of a variety of technologies that havebeen identified (by MedCity News) as having the most likely ability to shapethe future of dentistry over the next ten years. The list also included 3D Printing,Artificial Intelligence, Digital Dentistry, Tooth Remineralization andAugmented Reality. You can read thewhole article here:
More immediately, 2021 will see expansion of teledentistryin areas are medical-dental integration, e-commerce (via the expanded sellingof dental products to patients and dentists), electronic claims processing andfurther integration with electronic health records. The TeleDentists will be leading the way.