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How technology can help patients understand their health status and buy in to the solution

Jan. 1, 2021
Michelle Strange, MSDH, RDH, explains how to use teledentistry in conjunction with dental technology to help patients recognize their oral health situation and accept treatment.

With modern advances in technology, many industries are seeing a change in how they operate. Certain concepts that many could not have fathomed in years prior are now becoming realities for medical professionals everywhere. In the case of dentistry, innovation has brought a myriad of positive changes that can help advance oral health management and the way people access dental care.

Teledentistry is one such area that has seen an increase in demand due in part to the COVID-19 pandemic as well as the technological advancements that have made it possible. Although the idea of teledentistry is not new, it can help provide contactless care in an otherwise hands-on profession. With this increased availability of technology suitable for use in dentistry comes new ways to utilize tools such as intraoral cameras and processes that can help drive the overall betterment of oral health for our patients. 

What are the pros of using teledentistry in a post–COVID-19 world?

Dentistry is a face-to-face profession, generally speaking. However, not all appointments need to be conducted within the confines of a dental office, thanks to teledentistry technology. Follow-up appointments, in particular, are possible through this medium. Clinicians and patients can both have access to a portal that securely contains all pertinent information about their oral health, treatment plans, follow-ups needed, and data such as images or other testing and diagnostic information.

Any appointment that does not require a procedure should be possible using teledentistry. With features such as live video, synchronous or even asynchronous exams, and store-and-forward exams, dental practices now have options in the way they can use teledentistry. Clinicians everywhere can save both time and money that a five-minute visit requiring the use of expensive personal protective equipment and equipment sterilization would otherwise absorb. 

The use of intraoral cameras

The first intraoral cameras were introduced decades ago and have found a place in dental offices across the globe since. The camera shows patients the inside of their mouths, giving them a clear picture of what their dentist is seeing and the issue they may be facing when it comes to their oral health. This technology makes it easier for the clinician to diagnose and formulate a treatment plan as well as ensure that patients are knowledgeable about their oral health.

Although the mirror method has been widely used in the past to help show patients what is going on in their mouths, the intraoral camera is far superior. Not only can intraoral images help patients get a clearer view of any issues, but the pictures also provide a solid and quantifiable form of proof, allowing more seamless monitoring.1 When used in conjunction with a caries detection device, the two can work to the advantage of dental professionals. The intraoral camera also allows patients to take ownership of their oral health, because they can visualize their disease and the concerns the clinician has.

Caries detection devices

By using a caries detection device to diagnose lesions or other health issues early on, subsequent treatment can be less invasive and less painful.2 These devices have seen a significant improvement in efficacy over the last two decades and can help promote minimal intervention for patient care. This type of care can be a game changer for patients who suffer from dental anxiety. By reducing the necessity of more in-depth procedures, patients can feel secure in their oral care journey and continue to return to the dental practice as needed for dental visits throughout the year.

The latest in caries detection devices has allowed the radiology of the past to be put to better use detecting more advanced lesions.3 Radiographic detection is effective in many cases, but it is not always necessary for the beginning stages or in cases of oral health decline. In addition, radiographic detection is ineffective when it comes to measuring the activity or stage of a carious lesion.

Using teledentistry and at-home devices to improve patient outcomes

The use of teledentistry in today’s dental health-care industry can help drive a new age of oral well-being. For example, patients suffering from bruxism may not believe that they are grinding their teeth at night, resulting in unwanted symptoms such as jaw pain and cracked teeth. It can be difficult to paint a picture of this issue without being able to show patients what is truly going on. That is where both teledentistry and technology come into play.

Patients who suffer from teeth grinding can try a device that is placed on their temporalis muscle, which will then record their sleeping habits overnight. The data is sent back to an app where it is easily accessible to both the patient and clinician. Following a three-night analysis, both the patient and clinician will have a clearer picture of what the issue is and can work together to address it.4

The follow-up appointment can be done using teledentistry, where the clinician can show patients the treatment they need and why. As professionals, when we work smarter and start to look outside of traditional patient care for new solutions, we will see improved patient outcomes, more efficient use of provider time, and more engaged patients.

Assessment devices, such as BruxRelief, have been created to help identify issues patients may not be able to see or believe.5 Patients receive an overview of the data, which helps avoid any confusion or doubts about what is best for their oral health and keep them from feeling like the dentist is selling them on a product they don’t need. Having this information also gives patients a feeling of control over their health and treatment.

Return on investment for teledentistry and devices

Many dental professionals are not well-equipped with the latest teledentistry technology. This may be because the teledentistry method of care was considered second tier before the onset of COVID-19. In a time when social distancing measures are a must, investing in teledentistry can help ensure that dental offices are prepared for the future.

The simple addition of teledentistry could even help increase revenue streams by lowering costs.6 When fewer patients are required to come into the dental office physically, it frees up more time to see additional patients. It also gives people who are too busy to go to the dentist regularly the opportunity to explore other options that suit their schedule, thus making them more likely to stay up-to-date with their dental care. Teledentistry will make people feel as though they have greater access to care, helping increase the practice’s patient volume and revenue.

The future of dentistry 

Dental care is one of the most underutilized forms of health care. Research has found that even those who visit the dentist regularly are not always performing adequate at-home care (such as proper brushing and flossing) needed to sustain oral health between visits. The new technological advancements in the realm of dental care could help combat the already dwindling levels of oral health, increase accessibility for patients, open doors to new revenue streams for clinicians, and provide better oral health care for all.  


  1. Araújo MR, Alvarez MJ, Godinho CA, Roberto MS. An eight‐month randomized controlled trial on the use of intraoral cameras and text messages for gingivitis control among adults. Int J Dent Hyg. 2019;17(3):202-213. doi:10.1111/idh.12391 
  2. Slimani A, Terrer E, Manton DJ, Tassery H. Carious lesion detection technologies: factual clinical approaches. Br Dent J. 2020;229(7):432-442. doi:10.1038/s41415-020-2116-3 
  3. Schwendicke F, Tzschoppe M, Paris S. Radiographic caries detection: a systematic review and meta-analysis. J Dent. 2015;43(8):924-933. doi:10.1016/j.jdent.2015.02.009
  4. BruxRelief by Bravrr. BruxRelief. Accessed November 9, 2020. https://www.bruxrelief.com/about
  5. BruxRelief wearable A.I. for bruxism wellness created for clinicians – designed for patients. BruxRelief. Accessed November 9, 2020. https://www.bruxrelief.com/
  6. Teledentistry – everything you need to know about virtual dental care. RevenueWell. Accessed November 9, 2020. https://www.revenuewell.com/article/teledentistry-virtual-dentistry/

MICHELLE STRANGE, MSDH, RDH, has been a dental clinician since 2000 and is currently a practicing hygienist, speaker, writer, content developer, consultant, and podcast cohost for A Tale of Two Hygienists. With a master’s in dental hygiene education and a belief in lifelong learning, she hopes to continue to learn and grow within the dental profession and one day see the gap bridged between medicine and dentistry.

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