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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.

70%

of patients are comfortable communicating with dentists and other health care providers electronically, rather than in person.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 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.

20%

of Americans live in rural areas and can’t easily access a dentist and other medical services.2

Through teledentistry, you may still see other oral health professionals, such as a dental hygienist, who then communicates remotely with a dentist to determine if you need additional care. This means your teeth can be cleaned and X-rays can be taken at a local health center or in a mobile station, with authorization of a dentist. Using teledentistry in this way has the potential to expand oral health care to workplaces, nursing homes, 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 is largely meant for non-emergency situations and can help determine the urgency of a problem. Most emergency situations will likely still 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.                                              

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 aren’t sure 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. 

 

 

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 isn’t meant to replace in-person examinations completely, and it can’t work for every situation. But it’s another tool to help provide the oral health care, evaluations, consultations and education that 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.

1,2 American Teledentistry Association