Teledentistry, just like any other branch of telemedicine, started out as a necessity to help treat dental emergencies of patients that are having trouble making the trip to their local dental office.
If left untreated, tooth decay and some other types of dental issues, can have serious consequences and in the end will require a more complex, longer and more expensive treatment.
Aside from the reasons mentioned above, teledentistry found another use, during the Covid-19 epidemic which put most of the dental practice on “hold” for the time being.
Teledentistry basically represents dental care at a distance, through the use of various online communication and information tehcnologies. And of course, all obligations, both legal and profession, that apply for in-person dental care, apply with teledentistry too.
Different modalities of teledentistry
Teledentistry can be conducted in various ways:
- Live video (synchronous) – This type of teledentistry uses two-way video conferencing in form of audiovisual technology between the patient, caregiver or provider and the dental care provider.
- Asynchronous – This type of teledentistry is a bit different. Instead of direct live video chat, it involves forwarding recorded information such as your radiographs, video, digital impressions of the patient etc. through a secure communication system. The information is being forwarded to the dental care provider and then, he or she uses the information to evaluate the patient’s condition.
- Remote patient monitoring – This involves collection medical data and health information of the patient on one location, usually through electronic communication technologies and then sending them to a dental care provider in a different location so he/she could use the information for providing dental care.
- Mobile health or mHealth – This form of teledentistry involves dental care practice and education which is supported through communication devices like smart phones, tablet devices or PDAs.
When to use teledentistry?
In the current Covid-19 situation and State of Emergency, teledentistry should be used:
- By dentists in a specific state, for example in Arizona to assist dental patients in Arizona
- To assist only with providing emergency dental care – basically to assess and triage patients and to determine the next steps
At the moment, using teledentistry to provide full emergency exams is not possible.
No matter if practiced in-person or through teledentistry, it is still considered dentistry.
If some dentists in Arizona, decide through offer some of their services through teledentistry they still must meet all existing standards of practice and profession, various legal and ethical obligations that normally apply for them.
When practicing through teledentistry, Arizona dentists should:
- Confirm the identity of the patient and provide proof of their (the dentist’s) identity and license status
- Gather the necessary medical history, state of the patient’s condition before they could determine the nature of the dental emergency and recommend next steps. These can include:
- Advising patients and prescribing medication if that’s necessary
- Advising the patient to visit the dental office for an in-person examination or treatment, if such visit is necessary
- Referring the patient to another emergency office
- Referring the patient to another to another colleague that provides services not related to dentistry
- Referring and facilitating referral to a hospital for truly emergent cases that cannot be managed in the dental office
- Gather the resources that are required (information, equipment, staff etc.) in order to proceed with providing dental care services
- Making sure that the information on the patient is up-to-date and sufficient to provide dental services
- Use technology, for example audiovisual, in order to gather information and provide treatment
- Take the necessary steps in order to protect the patients’ privacy and confidentiality
- Keep and maintain updated records of the patients’ teledentistry appointments
Covid-19 is truly a challenge for the medical and dental profession, but with the help of teledentistry, we believe that the effects of the breakout could be minimized and that the true value of this service will be shown.
If you have a dental emergency and need help/advise from our dental professionals, make sure to schedule a teledentistry call here.