By Dr Amir Kazim
The COVID-19 pandemic of 2020 led to a shift in almost all paradigms and traditional conventions as the world had to figure how we were going to conduct business without having as much face-to-face interaction. From longer waiting lines to donning additional personal protective equipment (PPE), the very manner in which basic healthcare was delivered had to evolve. From hospital visits to routine checkups, healthcare had to adapt — this included dental care. Although governments across the world continue to stress the importance of routine care, most forgot the fundamental aspect that the mouth is part of the human body and that dental care is essential. Rapidly, a methodology had to be found wherein patients’ continued access to oral health services could be continued.
Enter: Teledentistry. Now it should be noted that teledentistry was not solely born in response to COVID. However, it did exponentially grow in importance and relevance during that time. In fact, as I was an early proponent of teledentistry during my time at Washington State University, I was asked by the American Dental Association (ADA) to comment on their New Dentist Blog on this novel modality. Three years later, I am honoured and privileged to share, what I believe, are the benefits, challenges, and future implications for teledentistry in the modern dental care landscape.
Teledentistry has been a great equaliser in terms of geographic disparity with respect to dental care. During my time in Washington State, I was located in Spokane. This is the second largest community in Washington surrounded by dozens of smaller rural communities. I am saddened and dismayed to report that many patients would have to travel hours to me for the most basic routine dental care, as no dentist was in their town. With this practice modality, it is possible for patients to be triaged and possibly premedicated so that when they do seek treatment from a traditional dentist, care and treatment can be delivered in a more expeditious manner.
Minimising geographic barriers is not the only positive aspect as teledentistry represents convenience and flexibility which appear to be on the minds of today’s consumer. After a busy day, in the convenience of their own home, patients can have direct virtual access to their dental team. To that end, I have worked with many corporations that offer 24/7 access through electronic means so that it is possible to triage patients if they do not have their own personal dentist. Additionally, in the US, work has been a prominent force in many people’s lives and thus they have no time to bring their child to the dentist. Having this modality allows patients to have better access to their providers. In short, teledentistry has made dental care more patient-centric and adaptable to individual needs.
To read the full article, click here or refer to Dental Asia September/October 2023 issue.