January 22

13 Dentists Predict the Future of Teledentistry in the Light of the Pandemic

Anubhuti

Telemedicine is taking the center stage as the world is coping-up with the pandemic. Telemedicine technology has become crucial for catering to non-critical medical needs.

Out of all the telemedicine initiatives, teledentistry is transforming the conventional oral care practices with its ability to bring expert dental care accessible virtually by leveraging video conferencing and interactive audio technology. 

The teledentistry landscape is rapidly evolving by meeting patients where they are to provide diagnostic consultation, dental care delivery, and relevant treatment.

But what do the dentists working on the frontlines think about teledentistry? To decipher what’s cooking in the minds of dental experts we asked them a crucial question:

What, according to you, would be the future of teledentistry post COVID?

Here we are with their enlightening responses and visions for what could be the future of teledentistry in near future once the pandemic is over:

1. Maria Kunstadter, President At The TeleDentists Aka The Dentist Is IN

The future beyond Covid will be stellar as we adapt to this new form of care and extend oral health access via teledentistry anywhere a dentist is needed. Virtual dental care is the future of dentistry as it will replace up to 25% of in-office visits thereby reducing office overhead and expense while the patient is receiving convenient care at the tip of their fingertips.

Shana Johnson said it best—“Companies that most effectively appeal to consumers in their moments of needs are the ones that come out ahead”.

2. Dr. Reena Gupta, Chief Dentist At Smiley Doctor

I think there is a certain segment of patients who are now getting comfortable with teledentistry, so even post-pandemic I believe they would continue to have hybrid appointments – teledentistry and coming into office. After the pandemic, post-operative visits and real emergencies would significantly benefit from teledentistry.

3. Dr. Lorne Lavine, Owner Of The Digital Dentist

Honestly, I don’t see it as having a major role based on my comments above. The fact is that dental diagnosis and treatment must be performed in the dental office, there is no way around this. There may be some limited functions such as discussing treatment plans or helping a patient to decide if an acute situation requires immediate treatment, but not much beyond that. 

Nor do I believe teledentistry is even needed based solely on the ongoing pandemic. Dental offices have been implementing universal precautions since the 1980s, there are few professions and few locations more prepared than dentists and dental offices to provide ongoing care in a safe and secure environment.

4. John Nakhla, President & CEO of Nakhla Dental Group, Inc

Once physical contact is no longer a concern, the use of teledentistry will diminish though not likely to disappear altogether. It still has a place in verbal consultations, such as financial arrangement discussions, basic post-operative visits, clear aligner case reviews and check-ins, etc.

5. Dr. Arash Hakhamian, CEO At Dentulu

Necessity is the mother of all invention and there has never been a better time for Teledentistry to shine. With dental offices either fully or partially shut down due to the infectious nature of the Covid-19 Coronavirus, both dentists and patients are faced with no other option than to adapt resulting in the acceleration of the inevitable adoption of Teledentistry. Whether this adoption persists beyond the Pandemic will be determined by the pain points Teledentistry addresses and the cost and efficiency with which it does so.

The pandemic, for example, has promoted contactless protocols both for the safety of everyone involved but also to save on PPE expenses. It is much more efficient and safe to send forms digitally than to print consent forms and have the patients sign them in person. 

Utilizing virtual consultations and post-operative video visits not only help open chairs for production but they also help save on PPE while protecting both patients and dental staff. With the use of Dentulu’s innovative and inexpensive consumer intraoral cameras, dentists are now able to actually see inside the patient’s mouth remotely helping them triage, diagnose, and provide dental monitoring while getting paid through these billable events.

Teledentistry provides what I like to call the 5 “C’s”

1) Connection: Teledentistry allows patients and dentists to connect regardless of any physical or geographical barrier.

2) Communication: Teledentistry not only enhances patient to doctor communication but does not in innovative ways that don’t always require live video and audio interactions as is the case with photo consultations through asynchronous Teledentistry.

3) Collaboration: Teledentistry provides a HIPAA compliant and secure platform that allows dental professionals to collaborate with each other while also bridging the gap between the dental and medical professionals.

4) Cost reduction: Teledentistry has been proven to reduce treatment costs while increasing the efficiency of the dental practices.

5) Comfort: Patients in pain or with infections can be provided comfort through e-prescriptions and consults instead of going to an emergency room.

In summary, Teledentistry provides a multitude of benefits today and will continue to provide new and innovative ways to reach more new patients and better serve existing patients. In the near future we will undoubtedly see more full time virtual dentists and many more companies that offer Teledentistry and Teledentistry enabled services that will allow clinicians to generate new revenue sources while increasing access to care for millions of patients around the world.

6. Dr. Aparna Sadineni, President At Dublin Metro Dental

Tele dentistry can make a significant difference post-pandemic in some Dental emergencies, Access to care in Underserved areas and oral hygiene education for the pediatric population in rural areas. Also, it eliminates the need to come into the dental office which reduces anxiety for the patient that doesn’t need to otherwise make a trip. It saves patient time and dentist time especially If a dental procedure requires a specialist expertise. 

7. Dr. Katherine grant-collier, Founder & Practitioner At Quest Dental

In my opinion, teledentistry will still have its limitations post-pandemic. Dentists are trained to use their hands even with the use of more technology there are limited “fixes” without clinical treatment. In the cases of rural areas where there may be a shortage of dentists, a dental hygienist or dental therapist may be treating patients and consulting with a dentist via teledentistry. There are limited applications based on the way dentistry is practiced today. 

8. Dr. Bryan Laskin, Founder At OperaDDS

The proverbial “toothpaste” is out of the tube when it comes to teledentistry and there is no putting it back in.  Now that patients are aware of the telehealth options, they are flocking to offices that leverage these tools to conveniently give their information and, in many cases, looking for the easy, first step to a new dental practice as a virtual consultation. 

Today teledentistry is being used to triage emergencies, provide virtual consultations and for some remote monitoring of cases. As teledentistry matures these use cases will expand, but I believe there will be many new opportunities to elevate dental care more conveniently for patients and team members.

9. Dr. Ben Reyhani, Co-founder At Smile Makers LA

The pandemic has made everybody prioritize what has to happen in person and what can be done remotely. Since the pandemic we have started to do most of our initial consultations via zoom.

The two great things that have come about from this are that we are doing a lot of consultations with people that live all over the country, giving us access to a much larger patient pool. The other is that we can lower the barrier of anxiety for our patients by seeing them at home where they are very comfortable and allowing them a chance to be open and think clearly so when they do show up to the office they are ready to get treatment t started.

Overall the pandemic has changed the way we do dentistry for the better and I think that even after the virus has been defeated, tele-dentistry is here to stay. 

10. Dr. Todd Emigh, Owner At Emigh Dental Care

I think COVID has forced the progression of teledentistry greatly. There are several different ways to approach teledentistry these days. But I think one of the biggest factors in my practice is that patients are happy to do a virtual consultation with their dentist via something as simple as FaceTime to discuss a problem they’re having, usually accompanied by a couple photos taken with the patient’s iphone. Although it’s not nearly as comprehensive or definitive as an in person exam with xrays, it at least can help get the ball rolling and put the patient at ease, along with giving the dental team an idea of what they are going to need to plan for when the patient comes in and how much time will be necessary. It helps reduce the number of patient appointments, which right now is ideal with the pandemic. Although I don’t think we will rely on teledentistry as much in the future as we do right now, I see it as being more used than it was before.

11. Dr. Chuck Le, Owner At 7 Day Dental

According to me, teledentistry has never been as popular and well liked as it has been in telemedicine because in dentistry, we deal with smaller body parts inside a small mouth. While it is easy to see swelling on the face and jaw, it is impossible to see or know which tooth has an abscess or crack without reviewing carefully the current radiographs and magnified clinical examination with dental loupes or microscope of the involved tooth. Second, there are biting, cold, and heat tests that we dentists can not do outside of the clinical setting. Therefore, in my humble opinion, teledentistry is more utilized in follow up care as opposed to the initial first visit.

12. Dr. Amin Samadian, Founder & President At Dion Health

Tele-dentistry will have a significant role in the future of diagnosis and treatment planning as other healthcare professional such as nurses, PAs, RDAs RDHs etc. are integrating more as a tool to extract the data and the imaging and record keeping processes are deployed over cloud.

Specialties that do not require direct intervention can function more remotely with the aid of the above-mentioned support team which brings care to more patients, will lower the cost of healthcare and will give access to high quality care in the remote areas.

Issues such as patient privacy, HIPAA compliancy and ease of record transfer are improving every day and doctors now can focus more on the decision making side of the process with all the tools, support and technology that has become available to them. 

13. Dr. David Alpan, Owner At Alpan Orthodontics

The future of teledentistry looks like it will be here to stay post pandemic. People are looking for conveniences at every transaction, if there is any way to make the process of visiting the Doctor, Dentist or Orthodontist without leaving work or home that sounds better to a lot of people. I refer to it as the uber-azation of health care, if a person can save time and money and still receive a treatment result this is very attractive to many consumers.

Smile direct club would not have gained as much traction as it did, if patients did not want those conveniences of not visiting the orthodontist. Mail order orthodontics will never achieve the same treatment results versus working with a high quality Orthodontist. Yet Smile direct Club has sold millions of treatments to date based on this virtual concept. The consumer may not get the best result or any attention during treatment, but for small minor issues it can help create some improvement.

In the pandemic people are scared to come to the office due to their fear of potential exposure to Covid-19 so any virtual or teledentistry is welcomed by most. Some people still prefer to come in to the office, see the team to hang out and schmooze. Some of our long term patients enjoy coming to see their extended family at the dental or orthodontic office and enjoy the in person connection.

We have had lots of patients so thankful we are open and that they can make an excuse to get out of their homes and visit with us. The reality that consultations and general information sharing can easily be done via teledentistry or virtual consults is welcomed by many or our new and existing patients.

The actual dental work on the teeth still requires an office visit for most procedures. When we plan for a patients invisalign treatment we construct all the aligners in advance and this lends itself to virtual consults. Our first visit with invisalign can be virtual but the second appointment to place attachments and do Inter Proximal Reduction (shaping of the teeth) must be done in person. The next 2-3 office visits can be done virtually with Zoom or Face time for the evaluation and confirmation to send more aligners. When the aligners are completed we need an in person visit for the evaluation of Case refinement (making more aligners) or finalizing and making a retainer.

In summary Patients will be utilizing virtual services in the post pandemic future. Teledentistry is here to stay especially for triage, exams, consults, some emergencies or initial fact finding.      


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