Teledentistry: What are its benefits and drawbacks?

Teledentistry is a combination of telecommunications and dentistry. It is in essence the exchange of clinical knowledge and images over remote distances, both for a dental consultation and creating a treatment plan. Several trends have indeed emphasized the use of teledentistry becoming more common place as technology continues to improve.

With the advancement of information technology and digital imaging capabilities, dentists have the tools needed to evaluate oral health issues remotely. Imagine for a minute being a concerned patient…

Maybe you have questions related to your oral health?
Maybe you need to seek out advice related to pain in your mouth or jaw?
If you’re not certain what the best course of action is and want immediate help/support this is where Teledentistry comes in. For a small fee you can go online to a number of various teledental sites, answer a few questions and get hooked up with a dentist licensed in your state.

The difference between a local Dentist and Teledental

One day you decided to pay a visit to your local dentist, a professional and small businessman (or woman) who owns the practice and cares for their patients. They may have grown and brought in an associate dentist or two but at the end of the day the owner was always there to be sure things were done right. Dentists were able to charge a fair fee and made a reasonable living. Patient care and reputation of the practice was first and foremost.

Then “network dentists” came and agreed to a much lower fee in exchange for the networks filling the extra time in their chairs. None of us predicted the day when everyone would be in a network. These small businesses had to find a way to do more with less reimbursement.  They found themselves having to hire more staff just to process claims and authorizations.  More management meant more time out of the office for training, and – more overhead.

Accessing Dental Services Remotely – Guarantee to Increase the Popularity of Teledentistry.

To stay afloat amidst a changing industry many dentists looked to DSO’s (Dental Service Organizations) corporate entities handle all of the known dental services for the practice, billing, payroll, accounts receivable, supply vendors and more. DSO’s then increase their management role by demanding dentists make “quota” or are compensated on a commission basis.  To do this they are expected to bill a certain amount per hour.

Imagine the stress of a young dentist, graduating with an obscene amount of student debt and having to please their bosses.  Some of these practices have names you recognize and some DSO’s choose to keep the name of the practice they acquired.  Just like the family physician with an office on the corner is now forced to be part of a “health system” the same is happening in dentistry.

See Also: How to Become Medicare Certified as a Dentist

Risks and Constraints in Teledentistry

It goes without saying that Teledentistry comes with its Pros and Cons. Some of the more obvious Pro’s could be: convenience, access, and mobility. Whereas some obvious Con’s could be: accuracy, treatment limitations, and assurance of the advice you’ve been given.

Another thing to consider is that with Teledentistry you have no gaurantee that the person who’s giving your evaluation has looked at your Xrays or have the ability to evaluate your dental history. It will work for some patients some of the time, but it will not work for all patients all of the time.

Perhaps what is more alarming is the new do-it-yourself model of healthcare. Someday you will be able to walk into a CVS, get your teeth examined and for a fraction of the cost of traditional aligner orthodontics,  a company will mail you trays designed to straighten your teeth.  It sounds like a great deal but everyone knows, it’s just not that easy to get a great result.

According to California Broker, future family dentists may find themselves standing on top of a virtual pyramid of specialists and other dental professionals who collaborate remotely to evaluate and treat patients.

With a little imagination, one can envision a future in which dental practitioners are linked to virtual clinics all over the world, revolutionizing the way dentistry is practiced. This may seem a little far-fetched, but in a few years, the way dental care is delivered could look very different than it does today.

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Kevin Steineman is a Digital Marketer, Entrepreneur, and Producer. Find out more about Kevin @KSteineman on Instagram, Facebook and wherever your heart desires. Be sure to also check out our Dental News Site - The Daily Floss!

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