Teledentistry 101 from Smile Reflections in Tucson, AZ

Teledentistry 101Tucson, AZ

When traditional dental visits are difficult to arrange, teledentistry offers a helpful solution to various oral health needs. Dentists use this option to work with patients who are unable to attend physical appointments. Teledentistry is a virtual dental appointment that allows patients to receive quality dental care from a remote location.

Teledentistry is available at Smile Reflections in Tucson and the surrounding area. We use these virtual sessions to assess dental problems and develop a treatment plan. Our team can let you know what we need to perform a virtual session.

If you are unable to attend an in-person dental appointment, teledentistry could be the right solution for you. Addressing dental problems quickly is important for improving your oral health. Call us at (520) 747-3595 to schedule a virtual session today.

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    History of Teledentistry

    Teledentistry began in 1994. It started as a military project and grew to extend dental care to underserved people living in rural communities. The emergence of this treatment option allowed dentists to collaborate virtually to better care for patients with severe dental problems. Although teledentistry has been available for nearly two decades, it did not become widely popular until 2013 when more than half of American hospitals and doctors’ offices began to incorporate telehealth services and proved their usefulness in treating patients. Now, teledentists offer patients both virtual and in-person sessions to accommodate individual needs.

    Research in Teledentistry

    According to the American Dental Association, a study performed by the University of Rochester’s Eastman Institute of Oral Health found that teledentistry is a beneficial way to provide underserved and disadvantaged patients with proper dental care. The Center for Disease Control suggests that a significant percentage of Americans did not visit a dentist in the past year, resulting in untreated dental caries that affect overall oral health. Other studies have found that teledentistry is comparable to in-person visits in terms of enhanced oral health.

    Technology That Can Be Used To Connect to a Teledentist

    Teledentistry consists of exchanging communication via text, pictures, and audio recordings to relay information between the patient and the teledentist. Any electronic device that connects to the internet can be used for a virtual session. This includes computers, tablets, and mobile phones.

    What a Teledental Consultation May Entail

    Patients do not receive a physical examination with a teledentist. However, many of the same steps are repeated in both in-person and telehealth appointments. You can expect the practitioner to perform the following actions during your virtual session:

    1. Gather medical history: The dentist examines the patient’s file. While oral health history is most important for teledentistry, other physical problems may have an impact on the plan of treatment the dentist prescribes. Teledentists need access to past X-rays and mouth casts to develop a complete understanding of the patient’s oral history.
    2. Learn about the current issue: The teledentist asks the patient for more information on the current oral issue. The patient needs to disclose whether the problem occurred as the result of an accident or if there is no apparent cause for it. Patients should also relay symptoms.
    3. Take pictures: Teledentists must see the patient’s mouth to make an accurate diagnosis. They may ask the patient to take pictures of the problem from different angles and send them in. This visual representation allows the dentist to recommend the proper treatment.
    4. Recommend treatment: Teledentists use the information they have been provided with to determine whether the patient should seek further care or treat the problem themselves. For emergencies, the patients are often advised to visit the dentist in person. For minor problems, the dentist can prescribe medication and treatment to alleviate the issue.

    When To See a Teledentist

    Patients should see a teledentist whenever they cannot attend a physical appointment. Many people find teledentistry to be most beneficial late at night or on the weekends when most dentists' offices are closed. This option is especially helpful for injuries, mouth ulcers, and missing fillings or crowns.

    Learn More About Teledentistry

    Teledentistry is an effective alternative to traditional dental appointments for many patients. Smile Reflections can help improve your oral health by taking advantage of this option. Call us at 520-747-3595 to schedule a virtual session today.

    Frequently Asked Questions About Teledentistry

    Q. How long does a teledentistry appointment take?

    A. While many in-person dental consultations take up a significant portion of a patient’s workday, teledentistry appointments often require less of a time commitment. When consulting with a teledentist, patients do not have to wait to see them. Patients simply communicate with the dentist at the appointed time using email or secure chat so the process is streamlined for enhanced convenience and efficiency.

    Q. What are the benefits of teledentistry?

    A. Patients who do not have time to visit the dentist can often fit teledentistry into their busy schedule because virtual appointments are often shorter than in-person ones. This option also gives rural patients the opportunity to seek dental care. Additionally, the Journal of Dental Hygiene suggests that teledentistry is effective for improving a patient’s oral health.

    Q. Who is a candidate for teledentistry?

    A. Teledentistry is beneficial for patients who live in rural communities and do not have access to an in-person dentist. It is also a viable option for patients who experience dental emergencies outside of normal business hours, particularly late at night. Teledentistry allows patients to seek emergency dental advice immediately instead of waiting for an appointment.

    Q. What does a teledentist do during a virtual session?

    A. Teledentists collect medical records, X-rays, molds, and pictures of the patient’s mouth during a virtual session. Many of these items are from previous visits and give the dentist a comprehensive understanding of the patient’s oral health. In most cases, the teledentist asks the patient to send current pictures of their mouths via email or secure chat. Teledentists then diagnose the problem and prescribe a plan of treatment.

    Q. Is teledentistry cost-efficient?

    A. Teledentistry is more cost-efficient than seeing a dentist in person. Insurance providers are required to treat telehealth the same as in-person treatment so patients with dental insurance are covered. It is a good idea for patients to check with their insurance providers to see what percentage of the treatment cost they cover.