Traditional in-person office visits will always be essential in the dental industry, but there’s no denying the recent surge in teledentistry. Like many aspects of digital transformation, teledentistry had existed in some forms prior to the pandemic, but between lockdown necessities and the growing acceptance of this type of technology, it has become a staple of modern dental practice.
So what exactly is teledentistry and how can it benefit patients and dentists alike?
What Is Teledentistry?
Teledentistry is the use of telecommunications technology to provide patients with remote consultations and dental care. This innovative approach to dentistry not only improves access to dental services, but it’s increasingly playing a role in how practitioners assess dental needs, plan treatments and deliver follow-up care.
Typically, this type of dental care falls into one of two categories:
1. Real-Time Teledentistry
Real-time, or synchronous, teledentistry relies on the dentist and patient connecting via a call or video chat, enabling them to talk, see and hear each other. This usually takes place over the phone, providing a convenient way for the patient to receive a real-time assessment and voice any potential concerns. Additionally, the dentist can respond to feedback in the moment and clarify any lingering questions.
2. Asynchronous Teledentistry
Asynchronous teledentistry, on the other hand, doesn’t rely on real-time interactions. Instead, the patient can provide the dentist with photos, comments or health records to explain the issue they’re having. The dentist then reviews their information and begins the necessary next steps in their treatment plan. For instance, if a patient reports a mystery tooth problem, the dentist can schedule further testing.
What Are the Benefits of Teledentistry?
Now that we understand what teledentistry is, let’s take a look at some of the reasons why it’s becoming a must-have in most dental offices:
Affordability and Accessibility
According to a 2022 study on the efficacy of teledentistry, not only has it proven to be effective in diagnostics, but “it has the dual benefit of lowering the costs associated with long-distance visits and increasing the accessibility of emergency assistance.” By eliminating the need for physical travel, patients save on transportation costs and time, which is particularly beneficial to those who are living in underserved or rural areas, or have mobility issues.
Improved Outreach and Patient Engagement
With greater affordability and accessibility, dental practices can expand their geographic reach, offering their services to wider populations in new markets. Zooming into the patient level, teledentistry can also enhance dentists’ outreach and engagement efforts, providing a convenient platform for remote communication, education, consultations and more. In this way, dental health professionals can extend their preventive care beyond the confines of their clinics, using tech-like phones to promote better oral health care and awareness.
Whether they're living in a previously underserved area, or they just have a busy schedule, patients highly value the ability to receive dental consultations from the comfort of their own homes. The convenience, accessibility and affordability of teledentistry all combine to provide them with the best experience possible. As a result, it can significantly boost patient satisfaction.
Teledentistry also adds to the convenience of dental offices, streamlining consultations to maximize the efficiency of patient care. Real-time interactions and asynchronous communications allow for quick diagnosis and treatment planning. Plus, the reduced patient waiting times help dentists manage their schedules more effectively, further optimizing operations and resource utilization.
Implementing teledentistry in dental offices can also lead to an increase in practice productivity, streamlining administrative duties like scheduling and patient follow-ups. By reducing the amount of time spent on managing in-person appointments, staff can allocate more time to focus on more productive or critical tasks. Not only does this improve the overall practice workflow, but it also minimizes the burden on staff.
What To Consider When Implementing Teledentistry
Are you thinking about deploying a teledentistry solution? Here are a few things to look out for before you land on a solution:
Determine Your Needs
Start by defining clear goals around what you want to accomplish with teledentistry, whether it’s improving patient access, extending service hours or offering specialized consultations. You can also ask your patients how they might use teledentistry to get a sense of its reception and real-world utility. This can be an informal conversation, or you can send out surveys to gauge their opinions.
Identify Infrastructure Requirements
Once you’ve established how you intend to use teledentistry in your practice, it’s time to identify the technological requirements for implementation. This involves assessing and ensuring you have the necessary hardware and software tools in place, plus a robust, high-speed internet connection to use high-quality images in virtual consultations. Your infrastructure should support all this while also remaining secure to protect patients and your practice from potential data breaches.
Choose the Right Tools
As you identify your infrastructure requirements, you’ll likely uncover gaps in your digital ecosystem. To support your teledentistry operations, you’ll ideally have a dedicated dental practice management system (DPMS) that seamlessly integrates with your other software to deliver key functionalities, such as appointment scheduling, patient record management, billing and insurance verification, patient communication and more. Not only does this elevate the virtual care experience, but it also streamlines administrative tasks.
Training staff is an essential step in implementing teledentistry. You’ll need to educate team members in the technical aspects of the tools, as well as the nuances of remote patient interactions. Effective training will help ensure staff can confidently navigate this new technology while maintaining a high standard of care and addressing any patient concerns effectively and efficiently.
Ensure Legal and Regulatory Compliance
Finally, it will be essential for you to ensure your practice is compliant with all relevant legal and regulatory requirements. You’ll need to navigate and adhere to a variety of regulations, including HIPAA laws around data privacy, while staying up to date on state-specific telehealth laws. Regular review and adaptation to these evolving legal frameworks will be critical to maintain compliance, avoid legal pitfalls and provide safe, ethical telehealth services.
Stay on the Cutting Edge of Dental Tech With Sensei Cloud
As you embrace the innovative world of teledentistry, you’ll need to make sure your practice is equipped with the right tools. Sensei Cloud offers a comprehensive DPMS solution to support your teledentistry needs. Discover how to revolutionize your practice’s approach to digital dentistry with a free demo.