Updated on February 9, 2024
4 min read

Dental Telemedicine (Teledentistry)

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What is Teledentistry?

Teledentistry uses virtual communication technology to provide patients with dental care. It allows dentists to evaluate, diagnose, and treat patients without going into the office. 

During teledentistry appointments, a patient often shares photos for the dentist to examine. The dentist then provides virtual care and education on the dental issue(s). They can also refer patients to in-person dentists as needed.

Teledentistry has huge potential to increase the reach and quality of dental care.

dentist using mobile phone close up view

How Does Teledentistry Work?

Teledentistry is typically carried out using one of the following methods:

Real-Time Consultation (Synchronous)

Synchronous, meaning ‘at the same time,’ refers to live video or phone calls between a patient and dental provider using HIPAA-compliant technology.

This real-time interaction mimics a regular visit that takes place in a dental office. Patients can undergo examinations and receive prescriptions or follow-up appointments at home.

Store-and-Forward Method (Asynchronous)

Asynchronous communication refers to sending and storing health information via HIPAA-compliant communication systems.

A teledentist can use documents like x-rays, photographs, and digital impressions to evaluate a patient’s condition without communicating in real-time.

Remote Patient Monitoring (RPM)

Remote patient monitoring provides care from a different location. It allows providers to collect and interpret medical data while a patient is in their home or another healthcare facility, such as a hospital.

RPM enables teledentists to monitor patients’ progress and alter their treatment plan remotely. They may communicate in real-time via video conferencing when necessary.

Mobile Health (mHealth)

Mobile health refers to any health care or public health practice supported by mobile phones or tablets.

Teledentistry can use mobile devices to provide dental education to a broad patient base. 

Pros and Cons of Teledentistry

Teledentistry is a controversial topic among dentists, public health officials, and state regulatory agencies. It has its limitations. 

However, there are many pros of teledentistry. It remains an ever-evolving area of dentistry.

Pros of Telehealth Dental Care

  • Increased access to patient care — This is especially important to patients in rural or underserved areas, people with limited mobility or severe health complications, and travelers who experience dental problems when away from home.
  • Opportunity for patient education — Often, patients need to know whether they are experiencing an emergency. A virtual consultation can help the patient make the best decision for their condition as quickly as possible.
  • Prescription of antibiotics for dangerous infections — Infections in danger of spreading can be examined and diagnosed during a virtual consultation. It can also help reduce the cost of overtaxed emergency rooms and urgent care facilities.

Cons of Telehealth Dental Care

  • Not available in every state — Not all states permit teledentistry. Dentists must follow the protocols of their licensing state. 
  • Certain treatments need in-office visits — Virtual care isn’t right for every issue. In-person, physical dental treatment remains necessary to fix many dental problems.
  • Limited accuracy of diagnosis — Certain dental problems require high-definition dental x-rays and an in-person examination. With the limited information provided in a teledentistry consultation, patients could receive an incorrect diagnosis.

Teledentistry and Dental Emergencies

Video consultations can help people undergoing a dental emergency. A quick video call with a dentist can provide a patient with vital information. Many patients are unsure if their condition is considered an emergency. In many cases, urgent care is not necessary.

Teledentistry could save these patients a costly trip to the emergency room with a video conference and follow-up dental appointment.

When a patient does experience a true dental emergency, teledentistry can get them medication or refer them to an urgent care facility immediately. 

Who Can Use Teledentistry?

Teledentistry can benefit many people, both providers and patients. It’s especially useful for areas that don’t have regular access to an in-person dentist.

Here are some ways teledentistry has already been used and ways it may become more popular in the future:

  • Private practice Teledentistry is convenient for patients who can’t come into the office. It also allows oral health care providers to create networks quickly and easily.
  • Public health Public health programs are slowly adopting teledentistry as a form of patient education. Mobile dental hygiene programs have been added to some schools. 
  • Connecting dental and medical providers Connecting dental and medical professionals can reduce the time between appointments and eliminate the need for patients to travel for treatment.
  • Direct-to-consumer treatments — Telehealth companies are offering direct-to-consumer treatments, such as teeth whitening, at reduced prices.
  • Consulting a specialist or second opinion Teledentistry lets you connect with a dentist from anywhere in the world.
  • Concierge services — Some teledentistry platforms offer concierge services, where a dental professional will come to your home.
  • Non-emergency dental issues — If you have a minor dental issue such as a toothache, you can connect with an online dentist at any time.

Summary

Teledentistry involves the use of virtual communication technology to provide dental care. It’s usually delivered using live video tools, asynchronous document sharing, and remote patient monitoring.

The practice of teledentistry has many limitations and benefits. It’s not appropriate for every dental issue. However, it can vastly increase the access of rural or underserved populations to dental care.

Last updated on February 9, 2024
6 Sources Cited
Last updated on February 9, 2024
All NewMouth content is medically reviewed and fact-checked by a licensed dentist or orthodontist to ensure the information is factual, current, and relevant.

We have strict sourcing guidelines and only cite from current scientific research, such as scholarly articles, dentistry textbooks, government agencies, and medical journals. This also includes information provided by the American Dental Association (ADA), the American Association of Orthodontics (AAO), and the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP).
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  2. ADA Current Policies.” American Dental Association, 2022.
  3. Ghai, S. “Teledentistry during COVID-19 pandemic.” Diabetes & Metabolic Syndrome, National Library of Medicine, 2020.
  4. Deshpande, S. “Teledentistry: A Boon Amidst COVID-19 Lockdown — A Narrative Review.” International Journal of Telemedicine and Applications, National Library of Medicine, 2021.
  5. Giudice, A. “Can Teledentistry Improve the Monitoring of Patients during the Covid-19 Dissemination? A Descriptive Pilot Study.” International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, National Library of Medicine, 2020.
  6. Estai, M. “Teledentistry as a novel pathway to improve dental health in school children: a research protocol for a randomised controlled trial.” BMC Oral Health, National Library of Medicine 2020.
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