What is Teledentistry?
Dental care has seen many changes over the past several years. And there have been few as dramatic as the rise of teledentistry, a new way of approaching dental care that is surging in popularity. The benefits to patients are numerous, and millions of patients are already adopting and adapting to this new way of “visiting the dentist.” With that in mind, let’s dive into what teledentistry is and what types of benefits it brings to patients.
What Is Teledentistry?
Teledentistry is a broad term that covers any tools, methods, and models of care that allow dental health services to be provided at a distance. That’s a bit of a mouthful, but it breaks down roughly to remote dental care that prevents a patient from having to go into the office.
There are a lot of services that fit this dental teledentistry definition and meaning. Some common ones include:
- Live video chats with dental professionals
- Remote monitoring of specific dental procedures
- In-home orthodontics
- Prescription of some medication
- Forwarding documents for second opinions
This list covers a sample of the most popular services that fall under the teledentistry umbrella. But, in fact, any time you interact with a dental service remotely, you’re utilizing a teledentistry service.
How Does Teledentistry Benefit Patients?
Teledentistry describes a wide range of services, each offering valuable benefits to patients. Here’s a quick breakdown of some of the main reasons why teledentistry has been so appealing to, and is quickly being adopted by, so many dental patients.
Teledentistry Is Convenient for Patients
With the ability to access dental care remotely, it’s easy to see how this would be a massive win for busy patients. Teledentistry eliminates the need to drive to an office or wait in a lobby. Scheduling and visiting the dentist becomes more accessible for many patients, and helps patients talk to their dentist more often.
Online appointments also free up a dental office schedule for those who do need to visit a dentist in person. With fewer people visiting the dental office, there is more flexibility for dentists and patients to schedule appointments.
Additionally, other services such medication prescription via live phone chats, and the delivery of at-home orthodontics, also contribute greatly to teledentistry’s convenience factor.
Teledentistry Reduces the Cost for Patients
Another critical point is that, overall, teledentistry is more affordable. In a world plagued by healthcare’s rising cost, patients are keenly aware of anything that will save them money. Virtual visits and consultations are, on average, much more affordable than an in-person visit. Cost-effectiveness is a valuable point for families that may have been putting off dental checkups due to the cost.
Teledentistry can also keep costs down because it encourages patients to maintain a preventative care schedule. Many costly dental procedures are entirely preventable with proper care. Many patients can prevent serious issues with more opportunities to visit a dentist through teledentistry services. By staying on top of their dental health, patients will spend less money.
Teledentistry Is Great for Emergencies
Emergencies are never fun, but fortunately, teledentistry can help in these stressful situations. Being able to immediately talk to a dentist in the event of an emergency is a powerful tool. A dentist can help you assess the situation and then make the best decision to lessen the impact and severity of an emergency.
It can also be used to prescribe certain pain medications to help patients until they can visit a dentist in person. Instead of waiting days to see a dentist, patients can get instant access and relief virtually.
Teledentistry Expands Care Options
Teledentistry also expands options that patients have for care. Even if a patient lives far away from a dentist, they can quickly get advice and care through virtual visits. The availability of online dental care dramatically increases the range of options patients have and provides them access to different or more specialized care.
Teledentistry is also an excellent option for getting second opinions or advice regarding unique situations. Teledentistry allows patients to reach out to experts worldwide, so patients are no longer limited only to the dentists who are close to them.
This feature of teledentistry is especially valuable for rural patients, who often don’t have easy access to dental professionals nearby. Virtual visits and checkups can help keep them on track despite the distance. For example, teledentistry has played a large role in assisting underserved children in accessing dental care.
Is Teledentistry Safe?
“Is it safe” is a big question many patients ask about teledentistry, and rightfully so. Patients may also have concerns over their private medical information and whether it is appropriately secured.
Fortunately, studies have shown that teledentistry care is comparable to that of in-office care. A six-year study of virtual dental visits showed that the care level was maintained and on par with regular dental visits. Patients can rest assured that their care is in good hands, whether they are in the office or not.
Also, many states have begun to create laws centered around teledentistry. These laws aim to keep the patients safe and protect their privacy and sensitive medical information. As teledentistry grows in popularity, we’ll likely see more regulation related to the industry from local and national government bodies.
Teledentistry Is Making its Mark
With all the above in mind, it’s easy to see why patients love teledentistry. It’s shown that upwards of 78% of patients will use some teledentistry service in the next few years. That’s a massive number, and clearly illustrates that patients are fully embracing teledentistry, and can look forward to seeing how it evolves in the years to come.