Examining the Rise of Teledentistry
One of the by-products of the COVID-19 pandemic has been a rapid rise in the use of teledentistry.
Though the concept of teledentistry has been around for years, it has of late provided a lifeline for many dentists and patients who’ve had face-to-face access restricted.
Though not without its challenges, teledentistry can provide practices with new opportunities that can benefit both dentists and patients.
What is teledentistry?
Teledentistry, also referred to as digital dentistry, is the provision of dental care, advice or treatment without face-to-face patient contact.
Consultations are carried out over a screen via a mobile device, tablet or laptop. Teledental visits can essentially be done from anywhere provided all parties have an internet connection.
Teledentistry is not regarded as a replacement to in-person dental care, but rather as a supplement that can provide its own unique advantages.
What are the advantages of teledentistry?
The biggest advantage of teledentistry is its ability to provide remote dental care to patients anywhere in the world.
This can increase the reach of your practice and potentially grow your patient numbers.
It can also help you to connect with people who might find access harder or restricted. This could include people with busy work schedules, parents, people with disabilities and people living in isolated areas.
Other benefits of teledentistry include:
Reduced chair times: Less need for non-treatment requiring patients to physically attend a practice.
Post-op convenience: Many check-ups can be carried out via a video call, depending on the nature of the treatment.
Improved uptake: More patients are likely to seek out their local dentist and attend check ups if they know it does not require travel.
Less patient anxiety: Many patients requiring dental care are simply too anxious to visit a dentist. Teledentistry can provide the first step to building a relationship and trust.
The green factor: Greater use of virtual visits and video consultations can help the dental industry lower its carbon footprint. Prior to 2020, travel emissions accounted for approximately 2/3 of the industry’s emissions.
What are the challenges of teledentistry?
A BDA survey from May 2020 found that patients who’d used a virtual clinic had a 97% satisfaction with their experience. All respondents agreed that teledentistry would be very useful in saving time, with 96% saying they would use it again.
Despite this positive feedback from patients, teledentistry is not without its challenges and sceptics. In addition to the obvious limitations around treatment, several other areas of concern have been highlighted.
A British Dental Journal article from May 2020 found that of 115 dental professionals asked, 76% had no prior experience of teledentistry and 63% had no access to video consulting. There is a learning curve for dental professionals before they can be confident in offering and promoting remote consultations.
Other concerns raised included diagnostic confidence, risks of delaying treatment, antibiotic stewardship and the requirement for urgent dental care for conditions such as face swelling and pulpitis.
Whilst teledentistry has proven a salvation for many dental practices and patients over the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s provision still has a long way to go before it can be considered mainstream.
But with the numerous benefits teledentistry can provide and its potential to modernise the patient experience, it’s role in the future of dentistry looks only set to grow.
How Kent Express can help
To help you offer additional value to your existing patients and build trust with new ones, patient educational leaflets can be sent out as part of the follow up to a teledentistry call.
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