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How Teledentistry Can Help Your Dental Practice Grow

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The healthcare landscape has evolved to include telecommunications, but how has that evolution affected dentistry? This article serves to answer that question and other questions relevant to the modern dental industry. 

How has the adoption of telehealth affected the dental industry? 

The dental industry is no exception to the recent adoption of telehealth services. A survey by DentaVox shows that most patients are likely to utilize teledentistry services over the next five years. Additionally, patients state their only prerequisite for trying teledentistry is availability. Over 40% of survey participants pinpoint teledentistry as a service beneficial to all, with only 2% arguing against the value of teledentistry. Overall, the adoption of telehealth has created opportunities for dental professionals to reach more patients. Those who might not typically attend preventive dental care appointments might visit the dentist more often. 

What Is teledentistry? 

In teledentistry, a teladentist or other dental professional remotely provides a dental consultation, care, follow-up, remote patient monitoring, or patient education via telehealth. It has been a valuable solution for dental problems during the recent pandemic. Virtual consultations can continue to help patients solve and prevent dental problems in the future. 

How is telehealth used in dentistry? 

Telehealth in dentistry involves the intersection of: 

  • Imaging technologies
  • Communication technologies
  • Interactive video and audio
  • Store and forward technologies
  • Data communications
  • Remote patient monitoring

Telemedicine technology allows dental professionals to deliver consultation, preventive care, diagnosis, treatment, dental hygiene and home maintenance education to their patients. Dental professionals can often provide virtual consultations and high-tech patient monitoring more conveniently and inexpensively than in-office consultations and patient monitoring. With the high level of convenience and a lower price point, it’s no surprise that patients are ready to embrace teledentistry now. 

65% of patients surveyed found health promotion and disease prevention the most valuable use of teledentistry. The use of teledentistry found most valuable by 50% of patients was assessing dental disease risk and diagnosing dental disease. According to 27% of patients, preventive procedures were the most valuable use case of teledentistry. 

How teledentistry differs from general dentistry 

Although teledentistry provides the same level of care as in-office care delivery, there are some ways in which teledentistry is different from general dentistry. 

The first difference is that teledentistry is more convenient than general dentistry. Convenience is essential to patients, as evidenced by the steady decline in dental office appointments that began in 2003. 

Secondly, teledentistry is more affordable than general dentistry. With much of the appointments taking place through telecommunications, patient care is less expensive, meaning patients can afford preventive care and treatments. 

Additionally, teledentistry is a more innovative solution than general dentistry. Consumers perform many tasks online, such as shopping and preparing their taxes. It’s no surprise that consumers are ready for teledentistry. 

Fourth, teledentistry returns commute time to patients and employees. Since many people work during dental office hours, teledentistry or virtual dental care creates a drastic difference in time lost when attending dental appointments. Patients spend about 17% of the usual time for dental appointments, often only spending 20 minutes on appointments. 

Teledentistry Facts 

What are the benefits of teledentistry? 

  • It can be a crisis response when access to in-office appointments is limited.
  • Teledentistry can help the underserved populations in rural areas receive the necessary dental care.
  • Teledentistry provides a convenient appointment option, meaning more patients will practice preventive care.
  • Teledentistry offers cost savings for patients.
  • Dental practices receive financial benefits when offering teledental services since they can serve more people and often charge the same rates.
  • Teledentistry saves time for employees and patients.

Which states allow teledentistry?

State Dental Board teledentistry policies vary. Some states specifically address teledentistry in their legislation, and others include teledentistry in their telemedicine legislation. 

The differences in the legislation include variations in addressing: 

  • Scope of practice
  • Reimbursement parity
  • Supervision
  • Site requirements for the origination
  • Synchronous and asynchronous services

The states with no teledentistry regulations are:

  • Alabama
  • Alaska
  • Arkansas
  • Colorado
  • Connecticut
  • Florida
  • Hawaii
  • Indiana
  • Kansas
  • Louisiana
  • Maryland
  • Massachusetts
  • Michigan
  • Minnesota
  • Mississippi
  • Missouri
  • Montana
  • Nebraska
  • Nevada
  • New Hampshire
  • New Jersey
  • North Carolina
  • North Dakota
  • Oklahoma
  • Oregon
  • Pennsylvania
  • Rhode Island
  • South Carolina
  • Texas
  • Vermont
  • Washington D.C.
  • West Virginia
  • Wisconsin
  • Wyoming (In 2017, Wyoming legislation began allowing professional boards to adapt definitions and standards related to telehealth to their respective fields.)

The states in which dental hygienists can provide direct access care are: 

  • Florida
  • Illinois
  • Indiana
  • Iowa
  • Kentucky
  • Maine
  • Massachusetts
  • Minnesota
  • Mississippi (legislation pending)
  • Missouri
  • Nebraska
  • Nevada
  • New Jersey
  • New Mexico
  • Pennsylvania
  • South Carolina
  • Vermont
  • Washington
  • Wisconsin
  • Wyoming

In many cases, Medicaid will reimburse for telehealth appointments, but there are some stipulations. In some states, Medicaid only reimburses dental professionals for live video telehealth appointments. In others, Medicaid will reimburse for synchronous telehealth appointments only. The states in which Medicaid will reimburse for synchronous telehealth appointments only are: 

  • Idaho
  • West Virginia
  • Wisconsin

You might be interested in how providing teledental services affects your billing. Many states have parity laws that assert Medicaid and private payers should pay dental practices the same amount for teledentistry as an in-person visit. The states which have payment parity laws in place for teledentistry that apply to Medicaid and private payers are: 

  • Alaska
  • Arizona
  • Arkansas
  • Delaware
  • Georgia
  • Hawaii
  • Indiana
  • Kansas
  • Louisiana
  • Maryland
  • Michigan
  • Minnesota
  • Missouri
  • New Hampshire
  • New Jersey
  • New Mexico
  • Oklahoma
  • Rhode Island
  • Texas
  • Vermont
  • Washington D.C.

Integrating Teledentistry in Your Dental Practice  

Integrating teledentistry in your dental practice will require teledentistry software, but there are other considerations as well. For instance, analyzing your dental team’s digital readiness, assessing and planning training for all, and a refresher on HIPAA regulations and their telehealth application. 

Also ensuring that you promote your teledentistry services, so your patients know about them. 

The key takeaway is that teledentistry can help your dental practice grow by allowing you to provide dental care access to more patients. 

For teledentistry solutions, check out our telehealth solutions which you can customize to suit your dental practice needs.