Teledentistry: Top Providers, Legality & Availability

Teledentistry: Top Providers, Legality & Availability
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Teledentistry: Top Providers, Legality & AvailabilityClinical Content Reviewed by Licensed DDS
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Table of Contents

  1. Is Teledentistry Legal?
  2. Providers
  3. What Is Teledentistry
  4. How It Works
  5. References

Telehealth has been evolving for decades, but many medical providers, including dentists, expanded due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Teledentistry can improve access to care and treatment for people who have little time, money, or access to a range of dental treatment otherwise.

Providers of teledentistry include Toothpic, United Healthcare Dental, and the network of doctors who work with Byte. Laws about teledentistry vary by state, but services are available in most states.

Big Names in Teledentistry

If you need a consultation with a dentist, or are interested in a home-based dental product like plastic aligners, you may look at potential options through your dental insurance provider. You may also consider these online teledentistry services, if they are available in your state:

ToothPic
This service uses your mobile phone to connect you to a dentist for a quick consultation. ToothPic takes an overview of your medical and dental history as you sign in; then, they ask you to take up to six pictures of your mouth for a report and consultation. This can include an overview of recommended standard treatments, guidance on orthodontics, and even diagnosis or recommendations to get a diagnosis.
United Healthcare Dental
Insurance provider United Healthcare Dental began offering a teledentistry option during the COVID-19 pandemic, which included financial support for their customers. With millions of customers around the country, United Healthcare Dental helped expand access to basis diagnostics, consultations, and recommendations, so patients did not have to travel to a dentist unless necessary.
byte
At-home, over-the-counter orthodontics treatments using plastic aligners have been a booming business for years. Increasingly, companies like Byte are providing easier access to orthodontic treatment. Although clear, plastic aligners are not for everyone, many people benefit from the simplicity of having aligners delivered to them, with supervision and care from a licensed orthodontist.
Teledentistry has revolutionized basic care for dentistry, including the diagnosis of potential cavities or tooth decay, recommendations for cleaning schedule, orthodontics, and much more.
There are potentially many other teledentistry options in your area, as access can vary based on your insurance and the state you live in.

What Is Teledentistry?

Teledentistry is a branch of telemedicine that uses photographs, interactive audio, video calls or recordings, data communications, and other electronic information to provide support, consultation, some diagnoses, and some treatment over mobile and internet technologies. Essentially, you can use your smartphone, tablet, or laptop to communicate with a professional, trained dentist for help regarding dental issues that come up.

There are many potential benefits to teledentistry, including less expensive treatment, greater access to high-quality care for patients in remote areas, and easier management of patient load for medical professionals. Telehealth practices have become especially important during the COVID-19 pandemic, but there are great benefits to access to this care that will continue as the pandemic recedes.

It is important to know that teledentistry may be only a first step to getting in-person treatment. A teledentist may be able to diagnose a potential oral health issue, but you may need to get treatment in person.

How Does Teledentistry Work?

In-person dental health visits have declined in the United States since 2003, according to the American Teledentistry Association. There are a wide range of factors that contributed to this problem, but it is vital to get regular dental care and have access to a dentist when you are concerned about your oral health.

Patient safety and privacy are important, so telehealth is still an important area of concern for both health care professionals and patients. Fortunately, with advances in laws, diagnostic tools, internet speed and access, and even camera quality, the ability of medical professionals like dentists to help patients who may be miles away from them is increasing.

By 2013, as many as 52 percent of hospitals in the United States utilized telehealth. Another 10 percent were beginning to implement telehealth services.

At-home treatments (including orthodontics like clear, plastic aligners) use telehealth services specific to teledentistry.

Studies on telehealth show that about 70 percent of people who use these services are comfortable communicating with medical professionals, like dentists, over text, email, or video rather than seeing a professional in person. Potential reasons for this include:

  • Less expensive “visits.”
  • Faster access to medical opinions.
  • Access to higher quality care.
  • Treatment or diagnoses without traveling a long distance.
  • Comfort with methods of communication, including indirect communication like text.

About 20 percent of Americans live in rural areas without easy access to a wide range of medical and dental professionals. But even for Americans living in major cities, scheduling an appointment can be complicated and finding a good appointment time can be even harder.

Teledentistry can make dental care and support simpler, which can encourage regular treatment for many people who might otherwise avoid important regular check-ups. Research on telehealth options in general suggests that the quality of care, along with patient success rates, were the same for telehealth providers compared to in-person visits.

References

Facts About Teledentistry. American TeleDentistry Association (ATDA). Date fetched: May 14, 2021.

Bridging the Miles — And the Pandemic — Teledentistry Makes Some Dentists Wince. (October 2020). Kaiser Family Foundation. Date fetched: May 14, 2021.

New State Law Provides Telehealth Patient Protections. (October 2019). American Dental Association, Global News Wire. Date fetched: May 14, 2021.

ADA Policy on Teledentistry. (2020). American Dental Association (ADA). Date fetched: May 14, 2021.

How It Works. ToothPic. Date fetched: May 14, 2021.

UnitedHealthcare Dental Launches Teledentistry Option to Help Plan Participants Avoid Unnecessary ER Visits. (June 2020). United Healthgroup. Date fetched: May 14, 2021.

Why byte. byteme. Date fetched: May 14, 2021.

Disclaimer: This article is intended to promote understanding of and knowledge about general oral health topics. It is not intended to serve as dental or other professional health advice and is not intended to be used for diagnosis or treatment of any condition or symptom. You should consult a dentist or other qualified healthcare provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition or treatment.

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