The Importance of Teledentistry in the Time of COVID-19

The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has given us what is essentially a “new normal.” Until a vaccine or cure is found, we are likely going to keep on wearing face masks and observe social distancing protocols whenever we go out.

The question is, how are we supposed to do any of that when we need to see a dentist? No matter how bad the COVID-19 situation gets, it won’t change the fact that we still need dental care. Without it, we are putting our oral health—and eventually, our overall health—at risk.

The problem here is that the dental profession is particularly at risk in the time of COVID-19.

All dental work requires access to an individual’s mouth, from which aerosols produced by saliva droplets come. If a patient is positive for the coronavirus, he or she could easily transmit the disease to the dentist and contaminate dental equipment and tools. And when everything around the dental office is contaminated…well, you get the picture.

It’s just a good thing that the world we live in is one where dental online marketing is a thing, and some aspects of dentistry can be done virtually. It’s called teledentistry, and it will play a crucial role in our oral health moving forward.

What is Teledentistry?

The American Dental Association (ADA) says teledentistry is all about providing “the means for a patient to receive services when the patient is in one physical location, and the dentist or other oral health or general health care practitioner overseeing the delivery of those services is in another location.”

Dental practices that provide teledentistry services typically use equipment and tools that may include:

  • a computer or a tablet with Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act or HIPAA-compliant communication software
  • intraoral/extraoral cameras
  • portable x-ray
  • video-calling applications/platforms like FaceTime and Skype

Teledentistry Services

With teledentistry, dental diagnosis, consultations, identifying dental emergencies, and treatment are now possible.

Using high-speed Internet and the equipment mentioned above, dentists can make correct dental assessments through photos and videos that patients send. They can also provide patients with pain medication and antibiotics prescriptions for problems like an abscess.

If you have braces, would you want to know the progress of the movement of your teeth? Your dentist can use teledentistry to supervise and monitor how your braces are doing without calling you into his or her office.

Unfortunately, performing procedures like tooth extraction and surgery via teledentistry is still in the realm of science fiction for now. Unless somebody invents a safe and effective way of performing them remotely, we have to make do with what teledentistry can offer today.

Benefits of Teledentistry

The one benefit that people immediately see about teledentistry is the ability to connect with a dentist remotely. Because of teledentistry, you can spare yourself from the hassle of taking a trip to the dental clinic and having to wait your turn. You also get to save time and money in the process.

Teledentistry also offers the added benefit of choosing a dentist who doesn’t have to be near you geographically. Let’s say the only dentist you trust is the one you have back home, but you’re now living in another city. With teledentistry, you should be able to continue consultations with that dentist you’re familiar with, even if it’s just to get a second opinion.

With the limitations forced upon us by COVID-19, teledentistry will allow us to receive proper dental care, no matter where we are in the world. Check with your dentist and see if he or she offers teledentistry services. If not, you can always find one on Google.

About the Author

Shawn Byrne, founder and CEO, started My Digital Dentistry after years of developing and executing successful marketing strategies for Venture Capitalists and business owners in and out of the medical field. He saw a growing need for quality digital marketing specifically in dentistry, and had the foresight to create an agency specializing in understanding and solving the unique problems of dentists and their practices from General Dentists to Endodontists.