Dentists anticipate steady or increased reliance on telehealth in future

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Three in four dentists who are using telehealth anticipate a steady or increased reliance on the technology over the coming months as they continue to navigate the COVID-19 crisis and resume routine care, according to a new report from the US.

The report, based on an August survey of nearly 2800 dental providers across 20 states by the DentaQuest Partnership for Oral Health Advancement in Boston, found that nearly a quarter of dental providers are seeing patients via telehealth or virtual platforms. Additionally, 11 per cent of providers who are not currently utilising telehealth for patient care have plans to use it in the near future. This utilisation rate is consistent with the 27 per cent of providers who were seeing patients via telehealth in June when dental offices were largely limited to providing urgent and non-elective services, showing significant promise for the longevity of telehealth in dentistry.

“The numerous challenges that the COVID-19 pandemic has brought to providers and the oral health community has created a real opportunity for a new path forward in dentistry,” said Dr Sean Boynes, vice president of health improvement at the DentaQuest Partnership for Oral Health Advancement. 

“Now is the time for innovation, to create a new model of oral health care, one that will be cost-effective, efficient and more equitable for all. What we’re seeing is that telehealth adoption and application is fast becoming a key tool for dentists to provide care that enhances disease prevention and whole-person health.”

Telehealth—primarily done through phone calls and virtual video meeting software—has been used to provide a wide variety of dental services, including COVID-19 symptom screenings, mouth/teeth examinations, referrals, patient triage, pain management and oral hygiene instruction. 

Survey findings suggest that while dental providers are primarily using telehealth for prescribing medication and triaging patients, there is a significant opportunity to expand its use for more preventive services.

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