As with many things that have changed as a result of the global pandemic, dentistry has felt the impact of stay-at-home orders and community concern about the safety of attending a dental appointment. Many Dentists, particularly here in Canada, were actually forced to close altogether for almost three months last year and when we re-opened, already stringent cleaning protocols assumed an even greater level of importance. Located in Brampton, the Brinkley Dental Team is proud of the safe environment we have always offered our patients, and seeing you in person (especially after that closure!) has meant the world to us. Perhaps that’s why when we recently read about teledentistry, we were a little taken aback. Teeth – as see on TV?
Teledentistry was referred to as “The Next Step of Dental Care’s Evolution” in a recent blog. It’s suggested that the technology has been in place for some time now but that the pandemic boosted its use and popularity. Certainly, for persons living remotely, for shut-ins, and others who are underserved, the option for teledentistry could prove beneficial. It would allow a Dentist the opportunity to visually connect with a patient and perhaps even provide a diagnosis remotely. Advantages in technology and communications are such that virtual consultations are possible. When it comes to treatment, however, the thoughts of how a Dentist might interact with a patient virtually to fill a cavity or scale, clean teeth, and take x-rays are a little overwhelming. Here’s what some experts suggest as the benefits of teledentistry:
- It can help reduce unnecessary visits to the dental office, keeping both dentists and patients safe as we continue to adhere to various public health social distancing advisories.
- It may act as an important source of public information, building dental hygiene awareness at both the individual and public level.
- It’s inexpensive, fast, and an easy way to perhaps introduce your child to the Dentist for their first-ever visit and/or to help familiarize children with the dental practice.
- It serves a useful purpose for pre-surgery screening, for quick consultations, and even initial oral examinations perhaps allowing a Dentist to schedule their appointments accordingly – knowing (due to the visual exam on TV) whether a patient’s perceived dental emergency really is an emergency.
- Finally, teledentistry covers great geographical distances allowing patients who live remotely to decide together with their dental provider whether a patient should attend the office or not.
It’s what happens next that has us a little confused! Brinkley Dental is known around the Brampton and Caledon community as the dental office that is family-centered and as “the gentle dentist.” We’re not quite sure how teledentistry fits in! According to the experts, there are two types of teledentistry: synchronous and asynchronous. Synchronous teledentistry takes place in real-time via live video chat where patient and Dentist interact and decide if treatment is required while asynchronous teledentistry might better be described as a consultation with another Dentist. Typically this might simply be a transfer of files, x-ray images, and notes, from one Dentist to the next, in order to determine whether to refer a patient directly to another dental specialist for treatment of a specific and/or complicated dental issue.
The writer of the blog suggests that teledentistry has the capacity to “revolutionize” oral health care and is a fitting next step in the future of dentistry. We’re not quite sure that this format is revolutionary but it might be fair to say there is a place for when it’s use might be appropriate. “As seen on TV” is not something one typically associates with Dentistry but as the pandemic has proven to us all – anything is possible! As for our team here at Brinkley Dental – we’re open, we are ready to see you and our environment adheres to all local public health mandates, continuing to keep patients safe and cared for IN PERSON! So for today, we’ll just leave you as we always do, with this thought: “Don’t forget to be a BFF with your mouth and brush that smile!”