You must have heard of telephone, television, telegram or telescope. But are you aware of the fast-growing trend in dentistry known as teledentistry?
Shocked to hear the word “teledentistry”? Tighten your seatbelt as we take you to this amazing ride of teledentistry!
Teledentistry is a method of providing dental services to the patient using telecommunication technology. In India, this system has been working quite well due to its vast and diverse population.
Teledentistry is the usage of the information technology and telecommunications for dental consultation, education and public awareness for the patients that want to seek some dental advice.
How is teledentistry helping patients to choose the right dentist?
Some dental services offer helpline and dental consultation over the phone. The consultants are qualified dentists who answer the calls, listen to the patient first-hand and prescribe emergency drugs if required. They direct the patient towards a dental clinic near them.
This way, the patient gets immediate attention and an appointment with the appropriate doctor. Teledentistry also guides the patients with an easier, cheaper and less intimidating way to connect with dentistry.
A platform for a perfect dentist-patient match
There is a large gap between healthcare in rural areas and in cities. Teledentistry can help to close that gap by maintaining a uniform mode of treatment for patients from all areas. Remote areas too can be accessed by this mode for provision of optimum healthcare.
There are a few methods of teleconsultation, mainly Real-time, Store and Forward. Real-time consultations include video calls where the patient and dentist interact with each other.
The dentist can see, hear and ask questions to the patient for the diagnosis. Store and forward consultations are the exchange of text and photographs which are stored by the dentist and then treatment planning is done.
A store and forward teledentistry system is very useful in practice without the need for extensive equipment or cost. A decent internet connection, a computer with sufficient storage, a digital camera as well as an intraoral camera are all that is required.
Help within the dental community
Another method is the Remote Monitoring Method in which dentists communicate with each other through the use of radiographs and other data like the patient’s clinical findings, photographs, test results and case history. The patient is not present in this method of teleconsultation.
Disadvantages of this can include misinterpretation of messages, privacy issues and insufficient training of the professionals.
Teledentistry training for dentists
The dental consultants undergo a teledentistry education course which should ideally be taught by instructors with both technical knowledge and teaching experience.
The trained general dentists and hygienists can be given the responsibility of the primary health centers in rural areas. They can in turn coordinate with the specialists using teledentistry regarding diagnosis and treatments. This communication can definitely assist in bridging the gap between the two areas.
For dental practitioners, this is a great way to expand their circle of patients. It can garner more exposure and opportunities. Remote consultations can help specialists enter a new pool of patients and explore more possibilities in their practice.
In conclusion, it is safe to say that teledentistry can help raise awareness about oral health on par with overall health. It can significantly lower the costs of dental care and ultimately reduce the disparity between the urban and rural communities.