It’s no surprise that the pandemic has brought a resurgence of interest in teledentistry. Even during lockdown, video conferencing platforms allowed dentists to have safe real-time interactions with patients.
But here are a few interesting facts about virtual dentistry you may not know.
The idea has been around for a long time
We tend to think of telehealth and teledentistry as recent innovations, but the notion of providing care remotely has actually been around for quite some time. An 1879 article in the medical journal The Lancet was among the first to describe the use of the telephone to reduce unnecessary office visits. And in 1925, the magazine Science and Invention speculated about how physicians might one day use radio and video technologies to diagnose patients.
The first major use of teledentistry as we know it was in 1994 by the Department of Defense, which started a teledentistry program called Total Dental Access. The program enabled referring dentists from the U.S. Armed Forces to consult with specialists on the status of patients. It demonstrated that teledentistry could reduce total patient care costs and extend dental care to distant and remote areas.
Nearly a quarter of dentists in private practice have used it
Polling data from the American Dental Association Health Policy Institute indicated that 24% of dentists in private practice were using and billing for teledentistry during the period when elective care was postponed due to the pandemic. Although that number has since gone down, the National Institute of Health suggests that the advent of COVID-19 nonetheless accelerated the adoption and use of teledentistry overall. Delta Dental likewise found that while the teledentistry peak in 2020 has dropped off, the usage of teledentistry in 2021 remained higher than before the pandemic. An American Dental Association survey showed that pediatric dentists and orthodontists are the specialists who use teledentistry the most.
Patients like it
It goes without saying that video technology can never replicate the experience of sitting in an actual dentist’s chair for a consultation. And of course, there are many procedures and evaluations that will probably never be done through teledentistry.
Nonetheless, patients tend to be satisfied with the sorts of care that they’re currently able to access through teledentistry platforms. A recent study found that patients’ satisfaction level with teledentistry services during the COVID-19 pandemic was 100% in the satisfied and very satisfied categories, with contributing factors being convenience and communication.
Another study found that most patients (89%) were satisfied with a virtual appointment. Satisfaction rates were high among all age groups, and the majority of patients were willing to recommend the use of digital, remote counseling instead of in-person appointments to their family and friends.
Teledentistry is a big growth market
You probably already know that teledentistry is growing, but the numbers may still surprise you. In 2019, the global teledentistry market stood at a little more than $667 million. Before the decade is out, the market is expected to reach $2.6 billion.
Delta Dental offers a free teledentistry platform
Delta Dental offers a free-to-access and easy-to-use teledentistry platform for virtual appointments, Virtual Consult. Available to you as a Delta Dental network dentist, Virtual Consult is a secure and HIPAA-compliant video platform that allows real-time face-to-face interactions with your patients.
You can connect to Virtual Consult online through any computer or iOS mobile device. Screen, assess and provide aftercare instructions (including e-prescriptions to manage pain and reduce risk of infection) to patients covered by Delta Dental PPO™ and Delta Dental Premier®.
Limited oral evaluations conducted through Virtual Consult are submitted to Delta Dental the same as in-office claims, so you don’t have to worry about learning a complicated new billing system.
Enrollment is easy. To get started, fill out the Virtual Consult interest form, and we’ll reach out to you.