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Can’t get to the dentist right away? Help may be available remotely.

Technology can keep us in touch — even remotely — with our family, friends and colleagues. It can also help some people get much-needed oral health care.

The use of teledentistry is increasing because it is convenient for both patients and dentists. Dentists can easily communicate with patients, as well as other dentists and health care providers, from a distance — providing people the care and information they need.


Recent studies show 70% of patients are comfortable communicating with dentists and other health care providers electronically. 1




Here’s how teledentistry works: A dentist consults with patients or other health care providers by video, phone, text, email or other online methods to address an oral health question or problem and determine whether the patient needs an office visit. Just like in-person care, these communication channels must meet federal privacy requirements to protect your personal health information. 



Making it easier to get care

Teledentistry can reduce barriers and increase access to oral health care and education. It can also reach people who are underserved by oral health care.

It’s especially helpful for those who don’t live near a dental office or can’t easily make it into the office. This includes people living in nursing homes and rural areas.


In fact, about 20% of Americans live in rural areas and can’t easily access a dentist and other medical services.2



This means your teeth could be cleaned and X-rays taken at a local health center or in a mobile office, with authorization of a dentist. Using teledentistry in this way can expand oral health care to non-traditional settings like workplaces, schools and early childhood centers. Services delivered through teledentistry are required to be consistent with how they’d be delivered in person to ensure you’re getting the same quality of care. 



When you would use teledentistry

Teledentistry can be used in both emergency and routine care situations. It can help determine the urgency of a problem, although most emergency situations will still likely require an in-person visit with your dentist.  Your teledental visit can help with handling symptoms, receiving a prescription and relieving anxiety until your in-person appointment can be scheduled. 


Examples of situations where teledentistry may be used:


Chipped tooth: You’re having dinner when you hear a loud crunch. You take a picture of your cracked or chipped tooth, and message it to your dental provider. Your dentist then reviews the photos and provides a consultation to determine if it is urgent or can wait until you are able to make an appointment.         


Small cavity: It appears that your child may have a small cavity, but you aren’t sure. You message your dentist with information and a photo. Your dentist advises on whether there is an issue that needs to be treated, and how soon you need to make an appointment.                                                            




Jaw pain: You have some jaw pain, but don’t know what’s causing it. You provide your dentist with details of the problem — where it hurts, how long, etc. A video chat is scheduled for a consultation.                                                                                                      


Bump or patch in your mouth: You notice a patch or bump in your mouth, but don’t know if it’s a sign of something more serious — or nothing to worry about. You let your dentist know about it, sending a photo if you can. The dentist provides consultation by video or phone. 




Follow-up care: You have a tooth extracted and need to make sure everything is healing OK. Or you need to check on the progress of your ongoing orthodontic work. Some of this follow-up care with your dentist or orthodontist can be done remotely.                                                                                           



Beyond addressing problems, teledentistry can provide preventive care through mobile stations. This allows you to get your teeth cleaned and X-rays taken at a time and place that’s convenient for you. While the pandemic has made this method of delivering in-person care more challenging, mobile dentistry is a rapidly growing practice that’s expected to return.

Teledentistry can’t completely replace in-person exams, especially for complex dental procedures. But it’s another tool to help provide the oral health care, evaluations, consultations and education you need.


State laws and regulations vary as to what type of telehealth services can be provided and how coverage for these services will work. Check with your dentist or state dental society to see if teledentistry services are available in your state.