The mechanics of teledentistry: What's a visit like?

 

As dentists adapt to social distancing and enhanced safety measures, they may now use teledentistry to examine and counsel patients. The American Dental Association Health Policy Institute indicated that more than 25% of dentists are using some form of virtual, limited evaluation of patients in a COVID-19 economic tracking poll.

With a videoconferencing software, a computer and imaging tools, the dentist can diagnose conditions and determine patient needs for in-home care or office visits.

How does a teledentistry visit work? Let’s take a look at how your dentist conducts a session, and what you’ll need to do to communicate your concerns and receive proper care.

How your dentist will prepare

Before the visit, your dentist will assemble exam paperwork, which may include a triage form, COVID-19 screening information, an informed consent form and your patient records. Then your dentist will set up an appropriate background, with a source of light in front of the camera used, and the internet connection will be checked.

     

 

How you will prepare

Before the session, you may be asked to complete forms, including informed consent, so your dentist can confirm that a teledentistry visit is the right option, and assess your COVID-19 risk level if you need to come into the office. 

You’ll need to set up for your consultation in a place where you have access to a sink, hand soap and towel. You should ensure that your internet connection is set up. Provide good lighting for your dentist to make evaluations. You can face the window to make use of natural light and use a flashlight or cellphone light as backup.

You can use household tools to assist the dentist during the exam. If available, a family member can help position tools or lighting.

How the session unfolds

During the call, your dentist will analyze your oral health, diagnose conditions and evaluate your care plan.

Dr. Erinne Kennedy, who practices clinical dentistry in Quincy, Mass., adapts her methods for the interactive exam. She advises the patient to use a dental mirror, a small compact or makeup mirror or a shiny butter knife for reflection as the dentist checks the back teeth (molars) in your mouth and the back sides of your teeth. The dentist can guide you as you position the reflection tool.

You can use a metal or plastic spoon to retract areas of the mouth for your dentist during the exam. For bite testing, a wooden chopstick or the blunt end of a wooden shish kebab skewer will work. For cold testing, you can freeze wet cotton swabs or you can freeze small wet napkins and use small tweezers to apply them to the tooth.

Why teledentistry fits into your dental care

After your teledentistry visit, the dentist will document findings. If needed, the dentist may make a referral to another provider or make a prescription.

Through teledentistry, your dentist can maintain continuous care to monitor your oral health. These visits are covered under Delta Dental plans, so this is a value-added benefit that can keep you and your family safe and healthy. 

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