With healthcare costs quickly rising, patients are always on the lookout to take care of their health without breaking the bank. Teledentistry is one such healthcare option that many patients have moved towards to help reduce their overall oral care costs.
While many patients have made the jump to teledentistry, others are hesitant and wonder about the costs associated with the new service. Will teledentistry save patients money on their dental care?
In this article, we'll examine the costs of teledentistry and offer guidance to patients who are curious about the new world of online dentistry.
Where Can Teledentistry Save Patients Money?
Teledentistry is a subset of telemedicine that focuses on providing virtual dental care options. These not only add convenience for patients but also help them save money. Some of these services include:
- Virtual dental meetings
- Video screenings
- In-home orthodontics support
- Medication prescription
All of these items aim to provide patients with more convenience and flexibility in their oral care. The shared factor between them all is that they all can be done remotely, usually from your own home. As we'll see, many of these services can also help reduce the cost of care for patients that take advantage of them.
Does Teledentistry Reduce Costs for Patients?
Overall, patients enjoy a lower cost of overall care when utilizing teledentistry services. Studies have shown that the total out-of-pocket expenses are more economical for teledentistry over traditional dental services. There are many reasons why this is true, which we'll look at next.
There's also a sizable time-saving component for patients that is hard to ignore. The convenience of teledentistry is a significant draw for many patients considering using the service. Patients with a busy lifestyle may not have time for an in-office visit, and that's where teledentistry can help.
How Teledentistry Saves Patients Money
The cost-saving aspects of Teledentistry benefit patients in two main ways. It both provides cheaper alternatives for care, while also helping to reduce the probability of serious, expensive procedures.
Teledentistry Reduces Patients’ Routine Costs
First off, many teledentistry services are more affordable than their in-person counterparts. Like check-ups or oral health monitoring, routine procedures are essential areas where patients can receive care without going into an office. These are naturally less expensive as there is less overhead for a dentist, and they can, therefore, offer the services at a lower cost.
It also brings more competition to the marketplace; dentists now have a much broader range of professionals to compete with, which will drive down prices. Instead of only a handful of local dentists, patients now have options to work with dentists worldwide. This freedom gives patients more choice and forces dentists and teledentistry services to be mindful of their peers and competitors.
It also saves the patients money by not forcing them into an office. Traveling can be expensive, as are lost wages from time off work. With more flexibility in scheduling, patients can work around their schedule and pick more convenient times for their appointment. In other words, time is money and therefore another way that teledentistry makes seeing the dentist more affordable.
Improved Preventive Care With Virtual Dental Care
Teledentistry also dramatically improves a patient's access to preventive care. Improved access means patients and dentists catch serious issues sooner, preventing more severe problems from developing down the road. Often, these more serious procedures, such as root canals, are the most costly ones, so preventing them saves patients lots of money.
A root canal can cost over $1,000. With proper access to care, patients can mitigate the need for many of these costly procedures.
Virtual appointments are especially impactful for those without easy access to dentistry services such as people in rural areas. These people are statistically less likely to visit a dentist and get proper care, which means serious issues can go unchecked. By having access to dental care, they can prevent them before they become an expensive issue, ultimately saving them thousands in dental surgery costs.
Does Insurance Cover Teledentistry Services?
As of right now, it varies whether insurance will cover teledentistry services. Coverage can rely on the provider, but may also rely on where the patient lives.
Individual states have created laws that mandate insurance coverage for teledentistry services. These laws often extend to those on Medicaid as well. It’s important to note that these laws do vary by state, so make sure to familiarize yourself with the requirements for your area.
Coverage also varies by provider. Some insurance providers have begun to cover teledentistry services on their own. Talk to your provider for more information.
That said, teledentistry can still be less expensive even when it's not covered. It pays to do some research to determine the total cost for a non-covered procedure and compare it with the cost of an in-person visit.
Does a Lower Cost Affect the Quality of Care Teledentistry Provides?
Another valid concern that patients have is if the lower cost of teledentistry also means a lower quality of care. Fortunately for patients, this is not the case. Teledentistry is as safe as in-person visits for patients.
For example, a six-year study from California backs up this claim. The study found that virtual dentist appointments were as safe and effective as more traditional treatment options. The cost of care also decreased for patients according to the research. Studies such as this one prove that patients can feel safe in knowing they're well taken care of despite the lower costs of teledentistry.
Teledentistry follows a lot of the existing rules and regulations regarding dental treatment. These laws include things such as:
- Proper licensing for dentists
- Adherence to privacy guidelines
- Adherence to HIPAA laws
- Following general medical laws like informed consent
- Many others
Many states are also passing laws aimed explicitly at teledentistry to help protect patients’ rights and privacy.
Costs of Teledentistry
Patients are discovering that teledentistry provides an effective, yet more affordable alternative to more traditional dental care options. Because the quality of care, nor privacy is affected, more and more patients are taking advantage of teledentistry. As the service’s popularity grows, there are likely to be additional ways to use its benefits in saving patients time and money.