What is teledentistry and how does it affect you?
By examining what teledentistry is not, we can better examine what it is. Teledentistry differs from web surfing for helpful information on dental health. That is web surfing. In other words, your going through this piece of writing is not what teledentistry is about.
Teledentistry, the remote provision of dental care, advice, or treatment through information communication technology, rather than direct personal contact with patients has its application aimed towards efficiency, providing access to underserved populations, improving quality of care, and reducing illness burden.
With an initial focus on the need to bridge the several kilometers that sometimes separate patients and healthcare providers, telemedicine arose in the latter stages of the 20th century.
Teledentistry on the other hand, is a part of telemedicine science that seeks to share digital information, perform distant consultations (called teleconsultations), and diagnosis (or telediagnosis) with the overall aim of improving patient health.
This can take the form of real-time consultation between a patient and the dentist or store and forward of clinical information, particularly between healthcare professionals in the case of referrals.
It is worthy to note that teledentistry is not a replacement for a physical meeting with your dentist. Instead, it sets it up as needed.
Teledentistry extends care to underserved patient populations like those in rural areas, at an affordable price. There have been cases of it helping children in seeing and being examined by the dentist at an early age, sooner than physical consultation would have sometimes made possible. In some places in Africa where as many as 80 to 90 percent of the adult population have not been to a dentist, this could prove a big difference.
In other words, teledentistry makes it possible for populations who would have had more difficulty getting access to dental care can now do it more conveniently. It becomes all the more convenient when you consider that teledentistry and aspects such as mobile dentistry can form a powerfully advantageous partnership for patients.
It not only offers reduced costs and improved quality of healthcare, teledentistry has the advantage of serving the needs of patients in situations where a physical consultation is virtually impossible, as an example, during a pandemic lockdown.
According to a Journal of the American Dental Association, teledentistry cannot only be used for increased access to dental care, it is additionally used for advanced dental education by providing new pathways of learning and teaching for dental students and dentists respectively.
As is the case with new healthcare technologies, teledentistry faces some significant limitations. Some of these limitations can be in the form of ethical, practical and legal challenges in that the confidentiality of patient details become a subject of concern.
It is also additionally projected that there is a decrease in the overall quality of healthcare provided via teledentistry, a claim that has been refuted according to a study carried out on the validity of its use. Proofs resulting from varying analyses also support its effectiveness, but they are not conclusive, especially for its long-term use to make evidence-based policy decisions.
The efficiency of teledentistry use in underdeveloped regions of the globe, when it is examined with the contextual and existing problems of these regions, also poses a big question to patients and dentists.
Possibilities and Potential
Imagine a banker that works all round the clock and keeps pushing forward a visit to the dentist that would have confirmed his risk of oral cancer, teledentistry affords him the opportunity of seeing his dentist at some free time even at his office desk.
In another case, think of an individual with Ludwig’s angina and who has no direct access to a physician. A dentist can telediagnose a suspected case of this illness inside a few minutes and save the patient’s life.
These are simply a few of the several possible uses of teledentistry. The potentialities of teledentistry additionally include its possibilities to reduce the isolation of dental practitioners by improving peer contact and increasing the efficacy of dental insurance.
As the fields of dentistry and information and communication technology evolve, so will teledentistry in its practical application to improve patient health.
This article does not however, substitute the professional care you should receive from your healthcare provider.