Teledentistry: How screening through a screen is changing the face of dental care
Teledentistry. It sounds like an oxymoron. How can you offer hands-on services like dental care through a screen?
But if you’ve been working in the industry over the past few years – especially this past year – you’re probably familiar with the concept.
The Covid-19 pandemic has played a huge role in its increased popularity. When patients and practices were hesitant to conduct in-person appointments, many took the virtual route. And while the hands-on stuff – the cleanings, the x-rays, the procedures – will obviously remain in-office, much of the virtual offerings might be here to stay.
Increase in care
When it comes to taking care of one’s health, if anyone falls by the wayside, it’s usually the dentist. Sometimes, it almost seems secondary. But as a dental professional, you know that maintaining good oral health is essential to maintaining overall health. For many reasons, though, people often neglect what you have to offer.
For some, this is a matter of access. People in more rural areas or underserved communities may not have as much opportunity to visit a dental practice. If these areas have access to the internet, they may be able to engage in consults and pre-screenings, only having to schedule in-person appointments when absolutely necessary.
Others have a real fear of the dentist – dental phobia. An initial appointment can be a source of anxiety for patients, and making these first appointments virtual can take some of the pressure off – it becomes more about the relationship between the professional (that’s you, RDH!) and the patient. So when they are ready to come into the office, your interactions can be a little more personal – and productive!
And then there are the busy bees. Really, that’s all of us. But not everyone prioritizes dental care. Some patients are much more likely to make time for a 30 minute virtual consultation than make a trip to the office. And if you can establish the relationship online, they are much more likely to make the time to come in when necessary.
Ease of access
Aside from virtual appointments – both synchronous and asynchronous – teledentistry also includes offering patient information through online portals. Your patients can easily access their information at home, at work, etc. – and may be encouraged to take charge of their oral health. If your software has a messaging feature, you will also be better able to engage with your patients because, as an RDH, much of your job depends on developing relationships.
One thing to keep in mind, though, is proper compliance with HIPAA regulations – so make sure you and your practice are using a proper dental care management system!
The future of dentistry
There has definitely been a spotlight on teledentistry over the past year – but really, the pandemic sped up a concept that was already making headway. For patients, there is a greater likelihood they will receive some sort of care, and the ease of information access can keep them in the loop – and even foster relationships. Not to mention, there will be fewer travel costs and less time taken off of work – you’re much more likely to see a patient because time = money.
For practitioners, it can make things run more efficiently. When you don’t have to shuffle patients from chair to chair, you have more space for the appointments that must be in-person, meaning you can take on more patients – and make more money. And you may gain patients that would otherwise be turned off by distance. You can find patients that are the right fit for your practice, making your job much more enjoyable.
And while teledentistry offers the ability to increase revenue, it can also make your patient’s overall experience a much more pleasant one. And a happy patient is a happy hygienist.
Read more fun facts, expert advice, and dental industry news on the Biteline blog.
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