Like all emergencies, dental emergencies tend to have little respect for traditional office hours or convenient locations. This fact is exactly why teledentistry is becoming extremely valuable in emergency situations. Because it provides care virtually (via your phone or online), teledentistry means that advice and treatment from a qualified dental professional are available 24/7, from almost anywhere.
What Is Teledentistry?
Teledentistry refers to the wide range of technologies used to administer dental health and information services remotely. Essentially, teledentistry is the term for a virtual visit to your dentist. Generally speaking, that can occur in one of two ways.
The first type of virtual appointment is known as synchronous. That would mean that you would have a real-time video call with the dentist to get the help you need immediately.
The other type of teledentistry is asynchronous. While this type of visit is also done remotely, it is not in real time. Instead, information (including photos or video) is shared electronically (via email, text or online) and then a conversation between you and your dentist would occur later.
Using Teledentistry for a Dental Emergency
While teledentistry can help dentists to perform more day-to-day care (such as educating you about an upcoming treatment, or checking your progress after one), the time when this growing capability really shines, is in the case of a dental emergency. Because teledentistry offers you easy access to dental expertise, advice, and (to some degree) treatment, using teledentistry in case of an emergency can:
- Provide peace of mind. It can be hard to know just how concerned you should be in the case of a dental emergency. Being able to contact a dentist right then and there is a huge benefit.
- Provide immediate evaluation. Using on-the-spot, real-time video, or shared photos and information allows a dentist to actually see what the issue is and offer important instructions for temporary relief or about urgent concerns—at least until you can get into the dentist’s office.
- Prescribe medication. Often times the biggest issue of a dental emergency is the discomfort it can cause. Using teledentistry, a dentist (after carefully accessing the situation and obtaining other important information) can prescribe medication (such as pain relief or an antibiotic) without an office visit. They can also direct you toward the most effective over-the-counter solution if that’s all that’s required.
- Prevent a trip to the emergency room. Nobody wants to visit the ER if they can avoid it. And the truth is, generally speaking, emergency rooms are more for the purpose of medical versus dental emergencies. Having access to a teledentist gives you the evaluation, information, and advice you really need, all from the comfort of home.
- Save you money. The average cost of a visit to the ER is around $1,389. The cost of a virtual dental appointment with a dentist is likely to be not only far less than that (most likely under $100), but even less than a traditional dentist’s appointment. Plus, many insurance plans include teledentistry appointments in their coverage.
So, even though you can never really anticipate a dental emergency, understanding what teledentistry has to offer can be of great value and comfort. Regardless of where you are, a vitual visit can give you the same level of outstanding care a traditional dental visit can, when you need it the most.