The Next Generation of Dental Care: Teledentistry
The age of technology has improved quality of life for humans on so many levels. Development continues to accelerate at unprecedented levels, and most of us are quite curious as to the breakthroughs we might experience in our lifetimes. In the dental care industry, specifically, the relatively new trend in teledentistry may revolutionize the ways in which dentists can provide comprehensive patient care.

Caring for Canada’s Youth

According to the Healthy Schools Campaign, persistent dental pain, which accompanies trouble eating and sleeping, makes oral health deficiencies one of the leading causes of school absenteeism amongst young students in Canada. In addition, it is estimated that 20 percent of children between the ages of five and eleven have at least one untreated decayed tooth. As a result, students age five to 17 miss, in total, almost two million school days in a single year due to dental health issues.

Missed school time can have a substantial impact on student learning and lifelong opportunity, as absenteeism has been shown to be a major cause of learning deficiencies. Fortunately, dental health problems are often preventable or easily treated with proper access to primary dental care. But many barriers, such as cost, transportation, language, and other logistics, continue to put basic dental care out of reach for millions of children.

The Basics of Teledentistry

The effectiveness of teledentistry relies upon providing low-cost preventive care. By focusing on preventative maintenance, the idea is to reduce the number of emergency room visits and costly, complex treatments that result in students’ inability to attend school.

Because the technology used to provide basic dental care has become increasingly precise and portable in the last decade, it is now possible for mobile dental practitioners to bring the technology directly to patients, rather than the other way around.

By establishing pop-up clinics in strategic community sites, specially trained dental health professionals can offer a number of low-cost services, including x-rays, professional cleanings, sealant applications, fluoride treatments, and therapeutic restorations, which help to alleviate pain and limit the spread of a cavity until the patient is able to schedule a regular dental visit.

According to the Pacific Center for Special Care and The Children’s Partnership, “Typically, a dental hygienist will bring a portable dental chair, a laptop computer, a digital camera, and a handheld X-ray machine—which, together, can all fit into the trunk of a car—to a site such as a preschool, elementary school, or community center. Within minutes, children and others who need care are getting state-of-the-are diagnostic, preventive, and early intervention dental care.”

Serving The Underserved

The exciting and innovative field of teledentistry isn’t limited to school-age children, but it is targeted at improving access to dental services for millions of people that otherwise wouldn’t be able to afford or find such services.

Recently, the California state legislature passed legislation that required the state’s Medicaid agency to cover the cost of teledentistry services. According to the resolution, teledentistry can encompass, live video consultations, remote patient monitoring, the provision of mobile dental services, and the recording of vital health information.

Especially as it pertains to health of school-age children, we have just begun to scratch the surface in terms of the benefits of teledentistry. Over the course of the next decade or so, improved access to dental care has the potential to drastically reduce chronic school absenteeism which, in turn, can increase students’ learning opportunities and provide a better foundation for future success. It may seem quite simple, but there appears a lot to be gained if we start with cleaner mouths.

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Posted by: DSR
Friday, April 1, 2016
Tag: Dental
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