Dentists now have new item number for telehealth consultations

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With coronavirus restrictions preventing many patients from seeking urgent advice from their regular dentist, the Australian Dental Association (ADA) has issued a new item number on the Australian Schedule of Dental Services and Glossary to allow for telehealth consultations.

“For the last couple of weeks, dentists have been restricted in the range of procedures they can perform, and then only to patients who’ve been cleared for coronavirus or have a low risk of being exposed to someone with the virus,” ADA president Dr Carmelo Bonanno said.

“With this new item number, patients will be able to seek advice either with videoconferencing or by phone from their dentist—without leaving their homes.

“Consultations in this way are not meant to be a replacement for your normal preventative checks—it’s for patients with an acute event such as toothache, broken tooth or damaged dentures or swelling or bleeding from their gums,” Dr Bonanno said.

The new item number is intended to be used in an exceptional circumstance where a patient is seeking urgent care from a dentist but is unable to attend a dental clinic in person.

Consultations will be conducted by phone or through a videoconferencing platform. Regardless of the application used, practitioners will ensure that the telecommunications solution meets their clinical requirements and satisfies privacy laws.

The ADA is calling on private health insurers to support the introduction of this new item number by ensuring that patients with an eligible health insurance extras policy can claim a rebate against this number.

“We understand that a number of health insurers will pay a rebate for telehealth consultations and we congratulate them for having the foresight to support their policy holders during this difficult time.

“The Australian Government has made it very clear it supports a ‘whole of population’ health approach to telehealth so we’re hopeful that it will be shortly including this capability for patients eligible under the Department of Veterans’ Affairs Dental and the Child Dental Benefits schemes who need urgent assistance from a dentist.”

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