What is Teledentistry?
Teledentistry is the remote provision of dental care, advice or treatment without direct face-to-face patient contact.
The recent emergence of several direct-to-consumer "dental" companies has seen "teledentistry" gaining popularity. I say "dental" because the majority of these companies are not owned by dentists but by investors who saw a gap in the market to provide orthodontic treatment to consumers (not patients) at a budget price by cutting out what they deem us dentists to be - unnecessary middlemen! The problem with this is that there has been no initial meeting with a dentist; patients, I mean consumers, have their digital impressions taken by a dental nurse or sales person, which is then sent to an unnamed dentist who plans the treatment. Consumers then receive aligners in the post to straighten their teeth in the post, with no follow-up appointments or maintenance.
The marketed advantages such as no need to take time out for dental visits and cheaper treatment can be very attractive for many patients. Without a thorough dental and orthodontic assessment prior to treatment, there could be an even bigger biologic cost to this seemingly quicker, cheaper treatment, such as problems long term with the health and functional life span of your teeth.
However, this does not mean I am totally against teledentistry. With Covid-19 forcing dentists to stop seeing patients face-to-face in order to reduce the community transmission of the virus, many of us have wondered what is the future for dentistry, and what will dentistry be like when we return to work?
It has made us look into our current protocols and see how we can make it work in the new normal. Technology has allowed us to keep in touch not only with our family and friends during lock-down but with our patients too.
As one of the professions where we are unable to maintain social distancing or work from home, video consultations are one way we have been keeping in touch with our patients. For patients in pain, it allows to assess the face for visible swellings, we can see how well, or unwell, the patient looks and sounds, and the patient can show us the area that is causing them the issues. I have found this to be much more valuable than a telephone triage in gathering information.
For cosmetic consultations, we can assess the smile aesthetics and get a good idea of how to manage the case and discuss the suitability of those treatment options with our patients. Obviously this is no substitute for a thorough dental examination, but this information gathering stage is equally as important. Before Covid-19, we would normally offer an initial cosmetic consultation to meet you, discuss all your concerns and treatment goals and discuss treatment options with you, before booking you back in for a comprehensive examination.
What teledentistry does offer both dentists and patients is flexibility. We have patients who travel from several hours away, and we have some who may not be able to come into town due to their schedule or childcare, and we will definitely continue to offer video consultations to those who prefer. I believe treatment should still be prescribed by a named dentist following a two-way discussion between patient and dentist on treatment goals and what is required to achieve desired outcomes. Teledentistry when used appropriately allows us to still do this but with more flexibility and efficiency.
We are pleased to announce that we have now seamlessly integrated our video consultations onto our booking platform and it will be here to stay even after we are able to open again normally. If you are using a computer or laptop, you do not need to download any software for our digital meeting, the video meeting will open up in your internet browser.
To start Your Smile journey today, book your video consultation here