By: Dr. Greg Grobmyer
If there were a list of people’s least favorite things to do, going to the dentist would probably be at the top of it.
Dental visits are scary for a lot of people. In fact, more than 20% of those surveyed said they have avoided the dentist due to anxiety. For other individuals, it means missing work or other things they prioritize.
Can you relate? Then teledentistry just might be the answer to your problems.
Why postponing care is not the best choice.
Imagine that you never changed the oil in your car. You just drove it anyway. The check engine light soon came on and your car started making funny noises. Eventually, when you finally broke down, you find out that your entire engine needs to be replaced.
Many people put off dental checkups even when they know they likely have a problem. All this does is let a small problem turn into a bigger one, which may be more difficult and more expensive to fix. Maintenance care and catching issues when they are small are always better choices.
So what is teledentistry?
Teledentistry is using electronic communication to speak to your dentist or dental team. This can be done by real-time video conferencing (similar to a Zoom call or FaceTime) or by messaging back and forth with information, questions, or photos (similar to a text conversation).
This concept is not new, but the recent pandemic has pushed the technology into the forefront. Dentists and patients alike have found that their initial conversation can be had without a physical visit to the dental office. This allows dentists to help patients decide whether a visit is needed or not.
How does teledentistry help with dental anxiety?
Again, more than 20% of people have said they avoided the dentist due to fear or anxiety. For some it is fear of pain or discomfort. For others it may feel like an intrusion into their “personal space.”
Another cause for anxiety is having feelings of shame or fear of being judged. People are embarrassed that they have “let their teeth get this bad.” Rest assured, your dentist hears this concern at least once a day and has seen far worse cases than yours.
Teledentistry allows for an easy first step towards dental care. People can speak to the dentist or a knowledgeable dental team member from the comfort of their own home. There is no poking around and no X-rays. You get to know your provider, share your concerns, and see how they can help you.
Of course, actual treatment usually requires a trip into the office, but already being familiar with the doctor and their team takes away many of the unknowns. Most find by getting to know the dentist first they can decide whether the particular office is the right fit for them.
Teledentistry is convenient.
A surprising number of people avoid the dentist due to their schedule. They may be unwilling to visit the office because of a tight work schedule, a distance they have to travel, or other similar issues.
Teledentistry is unique in that it can happen anytime and anywhere. Before taking that day off, you can speak to the dentist to see if it is necessary to actually come to the office. There are many questions that can be answered and problems that can be solved right from your phone or computer. Photos can be uploaded, and consults can happen with much less interruption to your busy schedule.
The technology also allows for care to occur in remote areas. Hygienists and dental assistants can be present with the patient while the dentist can conference with them from afar. This is becoming more common in underserved areas of the country.
How teledentistry is becoming a part of the New Normal.
While not every dental office is currently offering consultations through teledentistry, it is becoming more and more common, especially in light of the COVID outbreak. Dentists are using the technology to stay in contact and consult with patients while maintaining social distancing.
Teledentistry also serves as a great “first step” for patients with dental anxiety and for those with busy schedules. It is comforting to be able to discuss your concerns with a provider without having to sit in a dental office chair.
Call or check your dental office’s website to see if they offer teledentistry appointments. If you don’t have a dentist, take advantage of the referral resources offered here on Dentistry.com. Most importantly, do not put off your dental care any longer. A small problem today, could be a big problem tomorrow.