As telehealth and teledentistry services become more commonplace, many patients are looking to switch to virtual assistance. Teledentistry, in particular, offers a wide range of services that are both convenient and cost-effective for patients.
With so many companies offering services, it can be difficult for patients to envision which services are most beneficial. This article will break down a few of the most popular teledentistry services and help patients see how they can utilize teledentistry in their oral care.
Types of Teledentistry Services
Before jumping into the actual services, it's necessary to understand the two main types of services a patient might encounter. All teledentistry services roughly break down into two groups:
Real-time (synchronous): These types of services use real-time communication between dentists and patients. Real-time services include live video chats to get a diagnosis or other situations where you have a two-way conversation with your dentist in real-time.
Store and Forward (asynchronous): This is communication that takes place behind the scenes and doesn't require the patient present. Forwarding X-rays to a new dentist to get a second opinion is an example of a store and forward teledentistry service.
Understanding the two types of services offered is essential as it can dictate what types of care you can receive. Various laws around the country limit a dentist's ability to make a diagnosis or prescribe medication without real-time, two-way communication with the patient. Patients should talk to their dental professional to determine which type of service they need and what rules to follow in their state.
Popular Teledentistry Services for Patients
Below is a list of some of the most popular and accessible services that teledentistry has to offer:
1. Oral Examinations and Medicine
One of the most popular uses of teledentistry is to receive feedback and diagnosis virtually. These services allow patients to get input from their dentist or a check-up in a virtual environment without having to leave their homes.
A big part of teledentistry is two-way video communication. A dentist can use this technology to examine you in real time, which greatly helps with a proper diagnosis.
Another significant feature of teledentistry is dentists' ability to prescribe medication virtually. Patients no longer need to leave their homes for a dentist to prescribe common medications that can help patients with issues such as pain or infection.
2. Pre-Surgery Screenings
Pre-surgery screenings and assessments are another use for teledentistry. Using virtual methods, dentists can examine and make judgments about the need for surgery without the patient needing to come into the office. It can also help dentists plan for an upcoming surgery, reducing the time a procedure takes.
Remote screening provides convenience for all patients but is especially impactful for those who live in remote or rural areas. Eliminating the need for an initial visit or consultation saves time for both patients and dentists.
3. Second Opinions
Getting a second opinion is another service that teledentistry offers. With the ability to work with a broader range of dentists, patients can more easily get additional feedback on recommended procedures or other questions they might have about their oral health.
Patients can work with dentists who have more experience in certain areas, which helps patients get the best care possible. Patients, no longer limited by their geographical area, can get advice and feedback from dentists around the world.
4. Pediatric and Preventive Care
Teledentistry is also being used effectively for pediatric and preventive care. Many remote methods allow dentists to work with children and ensure their oral health without needing them to come into the office. Virtual appointments can be especially helpful for children deemed at risk or without easily accessible traditional dental care options.
These services can take the form of video communication, but new imaging technology also allows dentists to make an accurate diagnosis from images. These can be taken at home and sent to the dentist for evaluation. This early preventative care helps reduce the risk of serious oral issues in a child's life. Pediatric and preventative care have been studied and shown to be very effective uses of teledentistry.
5. Emergency Services and Consultations
Emergency services are another place where patients can benefit from the ease and access that teledentistry provides. These are often stressful situations, and having instant access to a dental professional can help make the circumstances easier to handle.
While a dentist won't be able to operate remotely, they can provide feedback and suggestions. Input from a dentist can include helping you get a diagnosis and advice about how urgently treatment may be needed. These sorts of services can help patients find the treatment they need in an appropriate time.
6. At-home Orthodontics and Monitoring
At-home orthodontics is another popular time-saving service teledentistry offers. Several companies offer teeth-straightening services, most of which can be shipped right to your door. At-home orthodontics is often more cost-effective in addition to being more convenient.
In many cases, you're also able to do several of the check-ups throughout the process remotely. These check-ups usually happen every few months and add up to a lot of appointments over a few years. By having these appointments virtually, patients can save a significant amount of time and money. It's also great for pre- or post-orthodontics evaluation, allowing dentists the same visibility into your oral state without needing the patient in the office.
With teledentistry’s variety of features, it's likely there's something for everyone. The service cost and convenience also make it an attractive option for a broad audience. In the years to come, teledentistry will likely expand its offerings, and we'll see an even greater range of services offered through virtual platforms.