How Has Tele-dentistry Improved Dental Care In Rural Communities?

How Has Tele-dentistry Improved Dental Care In Rural Communities?

November 1, 2021

According to the American Teledentistry Association, about 20% of Americans live in rural areas without easy access to a dentist and other health services. In such communities, the littlest of dental problems can as well lead to a life-threatening condition. Of course, poor dental health has much bearing on overall health and quality of life in general. Although it had existed before the Covid-19 pandemic, teledentistry proved most useful in a period of restricted physical interactions and nationwide lockdowns. How much impact has it had? Continue reading to find out.

What Is Teledentistry?

With teledentistry, dental care specialists provide services such as online dental consultation, diagnosis, treatment, referrals, and education via purely electronic means such as audio and video. This is not only a more convenient care option but one that has reduced the cost of care for many patients. Just as telemedicine is increasingly becoming the go-to option for many, teledentistry has followed suit because of the overwhelming semblance to the former. Teledentistry may be in several forms. These include:

  • Live Video: A second opinion dentist near you can offer online dental consultation via a real-time video conversation. Within an hour or two, complaints are discussed, history of dental care is thoroughly taken and the dentist may arrive at a tentative diagnosis. All of these can be achieved without any form of physical contact. Now, isn’t that amazing?
  • Store-and-forward: Patient care would be almost impossible without a constant exchange of data between different specialists. Via secure systems, photos, videos, X-rays and other relevant patient data can be exchanged between different care providers.
  • Mobile health (mHealth): Your smartphone or any other mobile device with an internet connection can get you quality dental care as fast as possible. Many apps offer access to an online consultation and even testing.

In rural communities, problems with accessing dental care range from the non-availability of qualified personnel to affordability and impaired mobility. Teledentistry easily eliminates many of these problems in a few clicks. Even in urban communities, problems like impaired mobility, an inflexible work schedule, and fear of the dental office keep people away from appropriate care. All these issues on top of a pandemic have made a huge argument for the case of widespread acceptance of teledentistry by all stakeholders in the industry. What are the many benefits of teledentistry?

Benefits Of Teledentistry

  • Improves Dental Hygiene

Good dental hygiene is the foundation for a lifetime of good oral health. With improved access to dental care via teledentistry, people stand a chance of living healthier lives. Statistics show that visits to dental offices began to drop in 2003 for several reasons including. What better way to maintain good oral health than teledentistry?

  • Reduces Cost Of Care

Several factors increase the cost of care. Travel expenses, several appointments, and contact with professionals all contribute to the ever-rising cost. It’s therefore little surprise that patients with a teledentistry visit cost 10% ($75) less to treat in 2018 than dental patients who don’t use teledentistry.

  • Takes Into Account The Changing Times

Many patients use their PCs or mobile devices to get information before seeing a healthcare provider. This is quite understandable given the amount of information available with one google search. Teledentistry fits right into this behavioral pattern by providing dental care over a preferred means of communication by many. Moreover, studies have revealed that 70% of patients are more comfortable with communication through text, email, and videos to their healthcare providers.

  • Helps To Triage Patients

Some people are better managed with in-office visits to the dentists. How do we separate these people from those who don’t? An online consultation. Everybody here leaves the table happy because people only spend 17% of the total time taken for a health appointment to see their dentist/doctor. Moreover, the quality of care does not drop with online consultation.

It’s quite obvious that teledentistry has the potential to expand access to healthcare at all levels. In time, more innovations that make this process easier will come into play.