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Teledentistry - Telehealth in Dentistry

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Dental care delivery is being revolutionized by a creative concept called teledentistry, which makes use of communications technologies.

Medically reviewed by

Dr. Lakshi Arora

Published At June 11, 2024
Reviewed AtJune 11, 2024

Introduction

Teledentistry gels dentistry with technology. Using technology and dentistry, teledentistry enables dentists to give care from a distance by sharing data and photos. It is revolutionary, particularly for those with trouble getting dental care in remote locations. It is like overcoming the gap between rural and urban communities when it concerns dental treatment. In teledentistry, dentists can more easily access patients from any location by utilizing digital records and video calls, among other communication techniques. Better treatment, increased access to care, and reduced expenses result from this. It is a significant step toward bridging the divide between rural and urban oral healthcare.

What Are the Different Forms of Teledentistry?

Different forms of teledentistry are listed below-

  • Real-Time Consultations or Two-Way Interactive Technologies: This implies that video calls can be used to communicate between dentists and patients who are in different locations. It is as though as they are in the same room since they can see and hear each other in real time. This is useful for discussing dental problems and choosing a course of therapy.

  • Storage and Forwarding Type: Here, dental data such as images, x-rays, and patient histories are gathered and maintained in place of real-time communication. After that, the dentist receives them online for evaluation and treatment planning. The dentist may make decisions without physically seeing the patient, which helps to provide treatment more quickly and more affordably.

What Are the Applications of Teledentistry?

Teledentistry is being used in various dental departments and some of the important applications of teledentistry are listed below-

  • Oral Medicine and Radiology - The Northern Arizona University Dental Hygiene Department developed a tele dentistry-assisted hygiene model to improve oral care access for underserved populations. This model connects patients with distant dental teams digitally. An evaluation of user acceptance of teledentistry found that users were convinced by the use of smartphone cameras for screening dental issues like caries. Another study explored the role of telediagnosis in oral medicine, transferring clinical data through email. This study showed that involving remote experts increased diagnostic accuracy. Oral CDx is a method combining brush biopsies with computer analysis to screen for precancerous or cancerous lesions, easily consulting specialists through telecommunications. Teleradiology allows radiographic images to be shared online for peer consultation, saving time and enabling second opinions.

  • Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery - When detecting semi-impacted or impacted third molars, teledentistry has shown to be equally as successful as conventional techniques. It has been proven to be dependable in the evaluation of patients requiring dental surgery while under nasotracheal intubation and general anesthesia. This method works well and is especially helpful when patient transportation is challenging. Furthermore, the insertion of dental implants has been substantially improved by communications improvements, particularly in computerized radiography support. This technique streamlines the procedure by creating digital data for implant and prosthetic manufacturing while enabling remote patient monitoring.

  • Pediatric Dentistry - A useful method for screening high-risk preschoolers for early childhood caries is teledentistry. It is both practical and economical to use intraoral cameras in place of visual inspections, particularly for early caries diagnosis. Teledentistry can also help schools handle traumatic dental injuries more skillfully. Pediatric dentists can be contacted promptly by teachers or physical education instructors with images of damaged regions. These dentists can then offer advice on how to evaluate the injury and recommend treatments and first aid measures.

  • Endodontics - Remote dentists have demonstrated the ability to identify root canal openings in teeth using images captured with intraoral cameras. Teledentistry has proven effective in diagnosing periapical lesions of front teeth and providing emergency care, thereby cutting down costs associated with distant visits. When comparing the diagnosis of periapical lesions, there was no significant statistical difference between images transferred through video teleconferencing and traditional radiographs.

  • Orthodontics - Teledentistry has proven to be beneficial for overseeing interceptive orthodontic treatment by general dentists, particularly for impaired children who may not have access to orthodontic specialists. It helps reduce the severity of malocclusions. The use of TeleDent software has been effective in providing patients with better treatment quality and appropriate services. Additionally, teledentistry has been found to decrease inappropriate referrals to orthodontic specialists by enabling quick access to specialist opinions. This communication tool is particularly useful for managing minor orthodontic emergencies at home, such as rubber ligature displacement, providing reassurance to parents and patients without the need for dental clinic visits.

  • Prosthodontics - Videoconferencing is being used for treatment planning in patients needing prosthetic rehabilitation, expanding specialist services in sparsely populated areas. Additionally, colored images of patients are often sent to laboratories to ensure an accurate selection of prosthesis shades, sizes, and contours. Computer-aided design (CAD) and computer-aided manufacturing (CAM) systems are increasingly replacing traditional methods for making dental crowns, inlays, and onlays (inlays and onlays are types of dental restorations used to repair damaged or decayed teeth). Dentists and dental technicians utilize teledentistry to access specialized computerized dentistry services for this process. Digital impressions, where scanned images of jaws are sent to dental laboratories for prosthesis fabrication, are becoming more popular than traditional impression techniques.

What Are the Advantages of Teledentistry?

Patients who live in remote areas, are elderly, or are disabled can benefit from teledentistry since it allows them to obtain dental care without having to travel to a clinic. Smartphones with network connections enable data transfer for teleconsultation easy and affordable, even though the initial setup cost is substantial. Teledentistry helps detect problems like early caries and precancerous lesions for better results. It also allows for early diagnosis and preventive therapy. With experts available in minutes and instantaneous consultations and data exchanges, it also saves time. Improved communication, especially in remote places, makes it possible to share clinical pictures for peer and group consultation, which improves diagnosis and prognosis. Computers and mobile devices that store data make record-keeping easier and enable forensic dentistry and research projects.

What Are the Limitations of Teledentistry?

There are certain restrictions with teledentistry. Firstly, it reduces the accuracy of the diagnosis by omitting important stages like percussion and palpation. People still must go to the clinic for restoration and surgical procedures, even though it works well for prevention and diagnostics. The procedure of taking and sending lesion photographs for expert comments can be vulnerable to technological problems and slow connection times. Furthermore, the initial network and equipment setup may be expensive. Lesions may not always be accurately represented by virtual examinations. The accuracy of diagnoses is impacted by the data that dentists supply to specialists. Effective teledentistry requires both dentists and specialists to have received the appropriate training. Aside from resolving issues like data security and confidentiality, legal concerns include making sure the patient is aware of the dangers associated with data transmission and giving informed consent for the procedure.

Conclusion

The COVID-19 epidemic has made virtual communication a common occurrence in daily life. This change has also affected dentistry, as teleconsultations or remote consultations are now a necessary part of daily operations. In addition to bridging the gap in oral healthcare between urban and rural areas, teledental treatment improves accessibility for marginalized communities living in remote areas. It provides an economical way to effectively provide dental healthcare services.

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Dr. Ashwini Kumar

Dentistry

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