By first uunderstanding the meaning of tele-health, this will help in knowing more about tele dentistry.
Tele-health is a broader field of dentistry that includes different health care tools, telemedicine systems and ways of care delivery that allows the provision of health care services or education from afar.
The practical applications of tele-health include remote patient monitoring (RPM), live video chats, capability for storing and forwarding video, photos and digital impression, as well as mobile health provisions through mobile devices for health care education.
What is tele dentistry?
Tele dentistry involves using technology in providing dental care with the patient and dentist being the common denominators. What makes tele dentistry viable for dental health care is the technology that is available to individuals involved.
There are asynchronous and synchronous applications of tele dentistry as explained below:
An asynchronous capability involves storage and forwarding of data from a provider to a patient. This may involve treatment plans data and exam data sent remotely to a patient.
Asynchronous video conferencing or live stream of data between a patient and a specialist.
Tele dentistry has also enabled specialists including the Langley dentist Dr. Wong to provide efficient dental health care to patients in places where dental care is limited.
Who can benefit from tele dentistry?
Tele dentistry improves the ability of dentists to provide much needed dental care. The digital benefits of tele dentistry include the following:
- Patients who live in rural areas, those that don’t have access to a dental provider or those that would delay or postpone dental care.
- Specialists interactions involving followup appointments and seamless referrals.
- Dental hygienists who provide screenings or offsite preventative care. Data can also be delivered for necessary follow-up and diagnosis.
- Connection with the histories of patients associated with physicians, pediatricians and nursing facilities is improved.
How does tele dentistry improve access to dental care?
Some people may not be able to access dental care due to convenience while others live in rural areas where dental service providers are not available. This allows for tele dentistry as described below:
To socially and economically communities that are deprived—It can offer dental health care to rural and urban areas that are under-resourced.
To under-served communities—It can bridge the gap of the oral care that exist for those living in certain rural or urban areas.
For care cost reduction—It can reduce the cost associated with onsite dentistry.
For improving specialty care—It can connect more patients that need specialized treatments with specialists.
For the integration of general and oral health—It enhances the connection of oral-systematic health that leads to the improvement of the overall health of patients.
How can tele dentistry be used to improve patient care?
There are different ways that tele dentistry can be used to deliver dental health care. They include the following:
Providing mobile dental services: This can be provided to senior care facilities, schools and underserved communities or rural areas within your reach.
Increasing clinical access: This can be for research, oral cancer screening, dental hygienists in solo practices, emergency dental procedures and collaboration between physicians and dentists.
Enhance oral health education and continuing education: In schools, remote area, for tracking and monitoring clinical trials for dental students and as a supplement for classroom educational methods.
The technology necessary for tele dentistry
Technology is necessary for tele dentistry to work. The most basics include:
Software and hardware to provide communication capabilities compliant to HIPAA via a mobile or portable device.
Access to the internet for both the patient and the dentist.
Imaging capability via a portable x-ray device and intra-oral cameras for capturing and sending diagnostic images.
Coding and regulations related to tele dentistry
The American Dental Association (ADA) has issued guidelines and related information for tele dentistry. Codes have also been developed to support reimbursement of services provided through tele dentistry. The codes were effective as from January 2018.
Tele dentistry can be used in creative ways—however, one should determine the laws and regulations that apply in their state. A dentist should communicate with their state’s dental board for ethical guidelines that they need to follow before putting their patient in tele dentistry.
Tele dentistry is an effective way of providing dental health care to individuals who have limited access to these services. It enables dentists to have follow-up routine check-ups with their patients without needing them to go to their clinic.