Teledentistry is the provision of dental care, advice or treatment without direct face-to-face patient contact.
The concept has been around for a while, but it’s become potentially revolutionary for the industry following the advent of COVID-19 which has changed the dentist-patient relationship, possibly forever.
The rise of teledentistry is one of the few grains of comfort for practice owners who witnessed their business freeze almost overnight during lockdown.
Forced to stop seeing patients in person to reduce the possibility of community transmission of the virus prompted some dentists to rethink their delivery model.
Just as technology has enabled us to keep in touch with family and friends from afar, savvy dentists have utilised it to modernise the patient experience.
A survey conducted by the British Dental Association in May has provided some insight as to what the future of dentistry may look like.
Patients that used a virtual clinic and telephone consultation had 97% and 94% satisfaction with their experience, respectively.
Encouragingly, all respondents agreed or strongly agreed with statements indicating that teledentistry technology would be very useful in saving time, with an overwhelming majority (96%) admitting they would use this system again in light of COVID-19.
Meeting the demand for cosmetic dentistry
There are three main reasons patients seek dental appointments: to receive advice on a specific concern they have, to have a general health assessment on their oral hygiene or they are considering cosmetic treatments to improve their smile and want to know their options.
While a digital delivery solution will never replace a physical dental examination or x-rays, it could still help to transform your practice by offering patients greater flexibility and making your services more accessible.
Video consultations or ‘live virtual smile visits’ enable patients to upload photos and meet a clinician remotely to discuss case assessment, cosmetic treatment options, time and cost.
Innovative technologies also make photos, videos and reports accessible to patients wherever they are so they can monitor their dental health and be more informed.
Offering remote services opens up possibilities to re-engage and attract new patients who previously may have been unable to visit your practice.
They no longer need to take time out for preliminary dental consultations and can take advantage of quicker, more cost-effective assessments prior to treatments.
It can also be particularly beneficial in helping to building trust with nervous patients.
Furthermore, some private practices are going one step further by sending patients an intra-oral camera to connect to their smartphone to enable check-ups to be done remotely.
Despite the obvious efficiency benefits that this way of working provides, understandably practice owners may be reluctant to commit to investing in evolving technology which could soon be superseded. But could this represent a missed opportunity?
Accessing new innovations can be expensive but forward-thinking practices do not have to be left behind.
Tailored and flexible asset finance solutions, from specialist alternative finance providers, offer funding for a wide range of dental technology and associated IT software and services.
As a result, dentists no longer have to impact their cash flow by purchasing new equipment in one lump sum.
By using finance, instead they can spread the cost (usually over one to five years) to preserve vital working capital without compromising their existing banking lines with their day-to-day business bank.
Teledentistry has come of age. Isn’t it time your practice did so too?
John Clarke is Head of Healthcare at Wesleyan Bank. John has amassed 20 years’ experience in the finance industry and has deep domain expertise in the professions, specifically within the dental and legal sectors.