Teledentistry is positioned to transform access to oral healthcare services for children, seniors, and other underserved populations in remote communities and those who face travel, physical mobility, and other barriers.
Using rapidly-developing technologies like the Virtual Dental Home, digital dentistry connects practitioners to more patients at a lower cost. It can also improve health outcomes and increase patient use of oral healthcare resources.
Drivers of Teledentistry in Canada
As technology improves and more dental healthcare services can be delivered within a digital space, new possibilities and models of care are beginning to shape the future or teledentistry.
In our CDA Oasis Conversation with Dr. Jeff Glaziel, General Dentist and Consumer Innovation and Development Lead with the Ontario Telemedicine Network, he indicated that digital dentistry in Canada would be driven by:
- Patient preference. While a digital dentist visit may be the only option for some patients, it could become the preferred visit modality for patients seeking to save time and receive routine dental care.
- Removing barriers. Healthcare providers, government, and community health advocates want to bring better dental healthcare services to underserved patients in places like schools, nursing homes and residential care facilities, and remote/rural areas.
- Physician efficiency. Dentists caring for underserved populations want to save time and increase their availability to consult with patients by using technology to share data with hygienists and easily access patient information.
- Telemedicine trends. Dentistry is among the many healthcare fields migrating to providing service through apps and other digital telemedicine tools.
The Current Teledentistry Landscape
-Virtual care and app-based dental and healthcare service providers have delivered digital patient services to market.
-Clinical sessions have been provided using teledentistry in Ontario.
-At this time, patients in rural and remote communities remain underserved.
-Legislation relating to teledentistry can vary by jurisdiction and further guidelines detailing its effective use must be developed.
-In 2017, ADA Code Maintenance Committee approved two teledentistry codes 1) Synchronous (real-time encounter) 2) Asynchronous (store-and-forward to a dentist for subsequent review).
-These codes enable delivery of quality care from an offsite dentist and onsite dental hygienist and remove barriers to accessing oral healthcare.
-Creating a preventative care and early treatment mechanism limiting advanced dental conditions.
How Can Dentists Prepare?
Digital dentistry and telemedical technology are developing (and changing) faster than dental healthcare teams, colleges, and associations can create best-practice guidelines and standardized service delivery models. To manage this technology overload and rollout effective digital dentistry services, the dental healthcare community must build a teledentistry infrastructure collaboratively, placing special focus in two foundational areas:
Data Security and Analytics
- Develop and implement strong digital information and data security standards and procedures compliant with digital personal information acts.
- Evaluate the benefits of sharing data and applying it widely to improve practice, business, and service.
Knowledge-Sharing, Best-Practices and Infrastructure
- Consider creating an open-source infrastructure of resources and networks to support the scaling of care delivery models, applications, and technologies using validated, common workflows as well as treatment protocols and best-practices.
- Connecting practices and teams under a common, knowledge-sharing framework that supports the distribution of learning modules and customized programs to facilitate the uptake and expansion of teledentistry.
Technology Driven, People-Centered
Although teledentistry is driven by technology, its success will rely on teams who use digital tools to enable focused, patient-centered care.
We want to hear your thoughts on teledentistry.
Share your opinions, questions, and experience with teledentistry and telemedicine in the comments section or contact us by email at , or by phone at 1-855-716-2747.