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Teledentistry is the dental form of telehealth medicine: virtual medical care that uses telecommunications to provide patients with services, without a visit to a physical office space. Teledentistry can include consultations, education, information-gathering, and diagnosis. Learn more about telehealth and determine whether teledentistry is right for your dental practice.

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Why should dental professionals use teledentistry?

The covid-19 pandemic has changed life in many ways, and some big changes, such as the widespread availability of telehealth services, are here to stay. In fact, since 2018, teledentistry treatment has been included in insurance coverage and in Current Dental Terminology (CDT) in the U.S. Offering teledentistry can have many benefits for dental professionals and patients alike.

Virtual appointments can save patients’ time by eliminating unnecessary trips to the office. For patients who need consultations or follow-ups, a 30-minute call is much more convenient than an in-person visit. In cases where a symptom can be treated by an over-the-counter remedy, teledentistry can allow for more immediate access to pain relief or antibiotic prescriptions. Similarly, teledentistry reduces wait times, and allows busy dental professionals more time to focus on in-office appointments for patients with more urgent or severe dental problems.

Additionally, many people suffer from anxiety surrounding dental check-ups. Approximately 100 million Americans visit a dentist less than once per year. Often, patients will avoid dental visits until they have an obvious problem. Having the ability to receive dental care without coming into the office may make it easier for anxious patients to attend more regular check-ups.

Widely available teledentistry has the potential to increase access to dental care to underserved communities. For those who do not have access to transportation or a physical office, teledentistry could be a helpful interim solution.

Types of Teledentistry

Teledentistry can include patient care and education delivery using three main modalities:

  1. Synchronous Teledentistry (real-time care): a live, 2-way video call between the patient or caregiver and the provider using an audiovisual technology, in which they speak directly to one another. This method works well for consultations or check-ins. Synchronous teledentistry can also be used for provider-to-provider collaborations.
  2. Asynchronous Teledentistry: forwarding recorded personal health information like photos, videos, radiographs, and digital impressions to a practitioner, who then evaluates the patient’s condition for later discussion. Sometimes, one dental professional will transfer data to another dental professional for collaboration. This method is referred to as “store and forward.” Asynchronous teledentistry is very helpful to streamlining the planning process and increasing the amount of feasible check-ins for patients.
  3. Remote Patient Monitoring (RPM): the collection of personal health and medical data through online forms and questionnaires, which is then transmitted to the provider(s).

Whether a dental practice chooses to use synchronous, asynchronous, or remote teledentistry, they are expected to provide consistent, high-quality care for all virtual appointments.

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ADA Policy Guidelines

Regulations on teledentistry vary from state to state. Be sure to check telehealth laws in your state to learn what is permitted. However, the American Dental Association has introduced a set of specific guidelines that all dental practitioners should follow.

Information for teledentistry patients

It should be very clear how patients can act to schedule an appointment or reach out to you with asynchronous telehealth information. One option is to provide a form on your practice’s website, or a highly visible phone number. The following information should be immediately clear to patients:

Dental patients’ rights

According to the ADA, all dental care patients have the right to expect:

For the full ADA policy on teledentistry, click here.

Download Mouth Healthy’s guide to synchronous teledentistry, which includes a checklist for getting started.

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