100 West Dental

Is Teledentistry Legit?

100 West Dental Office

Just imagine visiting your dentist from the comfort and privacy of your own home – no traffic, no crowds, no sitting around in the waiting room. If this sounds like a dream come true, you are in luck: teledentistry can help you get the dental care you need from home, whether you need an online checkup or something more.

But is teledentistry legit?

You might wonder if teledentistry is legitimate – after all, how could a dentist fill a cavity or clean your teeth over the phone?  

You’ll be glad to know that teledentistry is a valid approach to dental care in many cases, and it has been around for a very long time. Teledentistry is great for getting a dental checkup online, for example, or to have an online consultation.

What is Teledentistry?

Teledentistry is a form of telehealth, which is the use of telephones, computers, and other technologies to deliver care. Teledentistry allows you to get a dental checkup online.  

The American Dental Association (ADA) says that there are several modalities, or ways your dentist uses teledentistry. These include:

Live video

When you think of teledentistry, you probably think of live video. Also known as synchronous teledentistry, live video allows for two-way interaction between you and your dentist.  

Store and forward

Store and forward involves the storage and sharing of dental x-rays, pictures, digital impressions, videos, and other recorded dental records. Professionals refer to this as asynchronous teledentistry.  

Remote patient monitoring (RPM)

Remote patient monitoring uses advances devices and software that allow dentists to remotely monitor a patient’s progress. Software in the form of applications (apps) allow patients to use their phone to take pictures of their teeth, and the app automatically crops, organizes, and analyzes images; the apps can also tell patients when to switch to another Invisalign aligner tray, or help dentists spot cracked aligners, improper fit, poor hygiene, and other issues.  

Mobile health (mHealth)

The use of cell phones, tablet computers, and other mobile communication devices can help you share information with your dentist.  

What Kind of Care Can I Get Through Teledentistry?

While you can’t get a root canal or dental implants over the phone, there are many types of care you can receive remotely. These services may include:

  • Virtual consultation
  • Retainer checkup
  • Invisalign checkup
  • Checkup on the use of rubber bands and elastics used for teeth straightening
  • Loose orthodontics (braces)
  • Other dental emergencies

These services lend themselves to teledentistry because they do not require the dentist use their hands to do the procedure. In other words, teledentistry is perfect for visits in which you and your dentist chat about what is going on (consultation) or for visits in which your dentist needs to just take a look.

Do insurance companies think teledentistry is legit?

Insurance companies are notorious for refusing to pay for services they do not believe are legit. The mere fact that insurance companies will pay for a visit with your online dentist shows that they believe in the benefits of an online dental checkup.  

Teledentistry is Older (and More Legit) than You Might Think

While much of the technology an online dentist uses is very modern, teledentistry has actually been around for decades.

In 1989, Westinghouse Electronics Systems Group in Baltimore, USA, held a conference on dental informatics, which is the use of computers to improve dental care. Just a few short years later in 1994, the US Army’s Total Dental Access (TDA) Project explored the use of communications technology to improve dental care, dental education, and communication between US Armed Forces dentists and specialists.  

In the TDA pilot program, 15 patients received follow-up care for gum disease. Home computers and internet was less common in those days, so the participants traveled to the dental clinic of Fort McPherson, where dentists took pictures of the participants’ teeth and gums. The dentists then sent the images 120 miles away to Fort Gordon via 9600 baud modem, which was the first technology to transmit information over a telephone line.  

In 1995, the US military expanded the use of teledentistry in 1995 to troops stationed overseas. The expanded program allowed dentists deployed to Haiti to send images over the phone to specialists at Walter Reed Medical Center in Washington, DC.  

A team of researchers from Bristol University studied the potential of using videoconferencing technology to provide dental care. They described the equipment needed, the systems required, and the cost. The study leader, J. Cook, is credited with coining the word “teledentistry.”

Web-based teledentistry started in 1997, still as part of TDA. It didn’t take long for the community to adopt teledentistry. USC’s Mobile Dental Clinic and the Children’s Hospital Los Angeles Teledentistry Project began providing teledentistry services to underserved children in remote areas. As technology advanced, dentists realized that teledentistry could bring dental care to patients who live in rural areas or great distances from their dentists.  

Today, 78 percent of patients surveyed said that they would use virtual care. About 23 percent of dentists offer teledentistry or virtual care.  

For more information about teledentistry, consult with 100 West Dental. Our dentist in Ballwin MO uses all of the best technology to help our patients achieve and maintain their best smile. We offer virtual consultation to help you receive the very best care from the comfort of your own home.

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