Teledentistry in action: It’s more than technology

I’m very pleased to kick off the first installment of an eight-part series titled “Teledentistry in action.” Teledentistry is an exciting technology that I want to share with Dental Economics readers so that they can develop a real-world understanding of what it is. I want to explore the many applications and opportunities the technology presents for all types of practices.

When I speak with clinicians or sales prospects about our teledentistry platform, I help them understand what is known about the technology. I discuss the vast range of applications teledentistry can have. Some may think that teledentistry is used only in rural areas in order to have access to a provider. Others think it’s an app tied to a DIY clear aligner product. It is so much more.

Teledentistry can provide many benefits to private practice owners and patients. At its core, teledentistry takes the digital workflow in business and health-care systems and applies it to improving dental care delivery. This technology facilitates and enhances remote communication between providers and patients by allowing real-time clinical video consultations between them.

Business models

Pop-up hygiene services: Oral health screenings or preventive care services under your practice’s brand can be set up on-site in community settings such as offices or schools. This will connect your practice to profitable preventive care services while looping in new patients for restorative needs.

Expanded hygiene hours: If your practice is in a state that allows general supervision by a dentist, your office can offer expanded hygiene hours. Patients can then schedule hygiene appointments at more convenient times.

Pop-up dentistry: Private practices can set up screening services in community settings such as health fairs and shopping malls. Showing the importance of oral health, while making care recommendations easily available, helps raise the profile of a practice and integrate it into the community. Once again, your state regulations for remote supervision apply.

Specialist consultations: Teledentistry can change the way you refer patients by enabling the practice to share charts, photos, video, and x-rays with specialists for review. Your practice can also schedule live video conferences so that patients can meet their specialists and discuss treatment in a familiar setting. If you use a rotating specialist, you can share information or conduct a live conference on the days that the specialist is working at another office location.

Dentist success stories

Brittany Kinol, DMD, owns Miracle Dental. With two offices in the Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania area, she uses teledentistry to reach children in a range of settings that are the most convenient for the children and their families. By coordinating care delivery with Head Start programs, schools, and public insurance carriers, Miracle Dental’s team of mobile hygienists use teledentistry and portable equipment to deliver preventive care to students. This remote evaluation and treatment planning make future restorative visits more efficient and effective. Also, kids love to see what’s going on in their mouths, and they learn to understand the importance of home care.

Paul Labbe, DDS, of Planet Dental in Texas, uses teledentistry to connect his team of dental hygienists and dentists with children in school settings. They provide visually enhanced screenings that educate patients through the power of intraoral imaging. Clinical data is crafted into a treatment plan that is then shared with parents and guardians. Enhancing a traditional screening program in this manner brings improved education, increased patient understanding of the need for treatment, and patient engagement through innovative technology. 

Julia Heinrichs, DDS, uses a combination of LinkedIn and teledentistry to reach out to businesses in her area to offer on-site screening services for their employees. This screening includes an oral cancer screening device, caries detection technology, and intraoral camera. Dr. Heinrich’s favorite part of using teledentistry for corporate on-site screening days is that she can still maintain regular office hours. Between patient appointments, she reserves time to sit in her office and perform virtual real-time dental screenings. Her dental assistant is at the participating company’s location using teledentistry technology and documenting the patient data. If needed, Dr. Heinrichs uses the webcam on her laptop to have a face-to-face conversation with a patient to explain any issues or abnormalities that were identified during the screening, as well as the importance of following up in her office.

In upcoming issues of Dental Economics, you’ll read more about these progressive dentists and others like them who are rewriting the definition of teledentistry. Be watching for this exciting new series titled “Teledentistry in action.”

BRANT HERMAN is the CEO and founder of MouthWatch LLC, a leader in innovative teledentistry solutions, digital case presentation tools, and intraoral imaging devices. The company is dedicated to finding new ways to improve the dental health experience for patients and providers. Would you like to discuss teledentistry-enabled business models with Brant? Contact him at brant@mouthwatch.com.

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