FYI

Dentist blog from Delta Dental

Tag: virtual dentistry (Page 1 of 2)

Explore the benefits of teledentistry

You probably already know that interest in teledentistry has risen greatly over the past few years, especially in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. But now that people are returning to their normal lives, there’s no reason to discontinue virtual exams. Televisits are here to stay and can be convenient for both patients and dentists.

Advantages of virtual dentistry for dentists

When you implement teledentistry in your practice, you can see your patient base and revenues increase. You’ll also enjoy:

  • Efficiency. You can reserve televisits for more minor issues and checkups while seeing patients with more serious concerns in the office. And since virtual dentistry appointments average about 10 minutes, you can see more patients than you can in-office visits.
  • More revenue. Fitting in more appointments means more revenue coming in. Also, patients who set up a televisit with you are more likely to see you for in-person procedures as well, which can mean more business. It’s also easier to schedule patients for second opinions, which can be a new revenue stream.
  • Safety. Dentists and hygienists are exposed to many infectious diseases every day. With televisits, there’s no infection risk.
  • Reduced costs. The more patients you see remotely, the less personal protective equipment (PPE) you’ll need to use, which means a reduction in supply costs.

Advantages of virtual dentistry for patients

Patients benefit from the convenience of seeing you straight from their location, which means minimal time away from work. They’ll also be less anxious, and it increases access to many disadvantaged groups who may not have previously sought dental care, including homebound patients and people with disabilities.

Delta Dental’s internal data shows there are still patients who aren’t fully utilizing their teledentistry benefits, so this is an untapped market. The service is available to 37 million Delta Dental enrollees as a covered benefit.  A 2021 McKinsey & Company study showed that around 40% of surveyed consumers said they would continue using telehealth going forward. This is up from 11% before the pandemic.

How to get started with teledentistry

Delta Dental’s Virtual Consult allows patients to schedule live (synchronous) virtual video visits with a dentist. You’ll be able to assess their issue, offer treatment (including medication) and schedule follow-up visits.

Delta Dental will provide you with a free software platform to conduct these teledentistry sessions.

If you’re interested in learning more about the Virtual Consult program, just fill out the online form and we’ll contact you about getting started.

5 surprising facts about teledentistry

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.

How teledentistry can bring value to your practice

Since the start of the COVID pandemic, the use of teledentistry has increased significantly. This has created intriguing — and potentially lucrative — opportunities for dental practices. Are you taking full advantage of this new technology? Dr. Daniel Croley, Delta Dental’s chief dental officer, explains how.

In his new Dental Economics magazine article, “The value teledentistry visits bring to dentists and their patients,” Dr. Croley talks about the intrinsic value of teledentistry, the various types of teledentistry and how teledentistry can bring value to your dental practice and patients.

It’s no surprise that the pandemic accelerated the adoption of telehealth across the medical and dental spheres. As dental offices learned to navigate lockdown measures, extended safety protocols, and assuaged patients’ fears of becoming exposed to the virus via the dental office, virtual care has only scratched the surface of its potential in teledentistry. The market is expected to reach $2.6 billion by the end of the decade.

Dr. Daniel Croley 

Read the full article in Dental Economics.

What’s ahead for dentistry in 2022 and beyond?

The arrival of COVID-19 followed by the rapid development of vaccines created a bumpy, unpredictable couple of years for the field of dentistry. That turbulence has left everyone in the industry wondering and worried about what’s ahead in 2022. Here are our thoughts about what lies ahead for the field of dentistry next year and beyond.

1. Staffing will remain a major issue in the wake of the pandemic

The arrival of COVID-19 brought huge changes to nearly every aspect of American life, and dentistry was no exception. From the total suspension of non-emergency dental care at the peak of the outbreak to the adoption of updated infection control practices, the pandemic has had a major impact on the dental profession. It’s safe to say we’ll continue to see and feel the reverberations throughout 2022.

While more and more patients are returning to the dentist for routine care and other procedures, almost half of dentists report that hiring new staff post-outbreak is the No. 1 factor limiting volume. A poll from the American Dental Association found that 35.8% of owner dentists are currently recruiting dental assistants, 28.8% are seeking dental hygienists, 26.5% are looking to hire administrative staff and 13.1% are in search of associate dentists.  More than 85% of these dentists said that hiring for a position like dental hygienist was much more challenging than before the pandemic.

This disparity between staffing and volume won’t be soon or easily resolved, and we predict it will be one of the major issues for dentistry in 2022. 

2. Teledentistry will continue to grow

Teledentistry understandably picked up steam during the pandemic. Services like Delta Dental’s Virtual Consult  provide easy and safe access to dental care.

An analysis of Google trends published by the Journal of Clinical Medicine found a five-time increase in query rates for “teledentistry” during the COVID-19 pandemic. Any new growth is somewhat restricted by teledentistry’s limitation to triage and advice. Nonetheless, according to DocASAP’s annual State of Patient Access and Engagement survey, 40% of people would switch health care providers based on availability for both telehealth and in-person visits. Teledentistry is having a moment, and it’s likely to last into 2022 and beyond.

3. New tech will continue to reshape the industry

Dentistry is a field that’s defined by innovation. Some of the technologies we’ll have our eyes on for growth in 2022 and beyond include:

  • Augmented reality. AR has found a home in dentistry for both educational and clinical purposes. But look for it to become more and more prevalent in reconstructive and aesthetic procedures in the near future. AR apps use a digital camera to overlay virtual depictions of an improved set of teeth prior to a procedure. This allows patients and dentists to configure features such as height and spacing to their liking before they even enter the surgery room.
  • Virtual reality. VR completely closes off the outside world with a dedicated headset and immerses the user in a virtual environment. By slipping such a headset on their head, students and aspiring dental surgeons can be transported to the operating room, or patients can visualize a calming landscape while seated in the dentist’s chair to improve their experience.
  • 3D printing. As this technology is set to become an integral part of many healthcare practices, it’s also becoming more and more incorporated into dental labs. With a 3D printer doing the hard work, dental labs can eliminate the bottleneck of manual modelling and quicker creation of crowns and bridges.
  • Chatbots. Up to 80% of customers’ frequently asked questions could be answered by a chatbot, according to estimates by IBM. It’s no wonder that the healthcare chatbot market is expected to reach $967.7 million by 2027. Chatbots can streamline inquiries and save office staff time by answering routine questions and even scheduling appointments. The technology has the potential to save businesses up to $8 billion in 2022, according to IBM.
  • Appointment confirmation software. Like chatbots, appointment confirmation software automates a previously time-intensive process prone to error and neglect. Many appointment confirmation software systems even offer patients the option to make their own appointments. In 2022, look for confirmation software to continue to integrate with online payment, virtual dentistry and other office and data collection software.

4. Dentistry will get greener

Dentistry is an energy- and resource-intensive field with a significant environmental impact. Dental practices discard approximately 680 million chair barriers, light handle covers and patient bibs, as well as 1.7 million sterilization pouches each year, according to the Eco-Dentistry Association. Many dentists are responding to concerns over the practice’s carbon footprint, and patients are becoming more likely to choose environmentally conscious practices. The industry continues to respond to providers’ and patients’ concerns about the environment, with new high-tech innovations often allowing for waste reduction. In 2022 and beyond, we predict that more dental practices will seek ways to reduce pollution and to serve the wellness lifestyle that more patients are choosing.

Boost your reach with Virtual Consult

Are you ready to boost your practice’s reach? Delta Dental – Virtual Consult is the perfect tool to increase your access to Delta Dental members and raise your earning potential. It’s ideal for seeing patients remotely for urgent consultations, general questions and follow-up exams, all on a fully secure, HIPAA-compliant platform.

With Virtual Consult, you can:

  • Check in with current and potential patients remotely
  • Safely prescribe medication for pain or infections
  • Schedule and conduct appointments from anywhere with an internet connection and a webcam or iOS device
  • Save time by setting up automated patient communications

Ready to join? Fill out the online form and we’ll reach out with instructions on getting started with Virtual Consult.

Once you’re set up with Virtual Consult, remember to update your calendar frequently so new patients can find you. When your calendar isn’t up to date, you won’t appear in search results!

To add availability to your Virtual Consult calendar, log in to your account. Don’t have an account yet? Fill out the interest form to enroll!

The calendar function on Delta Dental's Virtual Consult features the ability to add single availability, add single appointments and add recurring availability to your calendar.
Editing calendar availability in Virtual Consult.

Once you’ve logged in, hover over the Practice tab and click on Calendar. On your calendar page, you can add appointments with individuals directly, add open availability or even add recurring availability.

Got questions about Virtual Consult? Contact us at virtualconsult@delta.org.

How dental technology can help take your care to the next level

As technology rapidly evolves, innovative new software and hardware have begun to appear in dental offices and schools around the country. Here are a few interesting and promising technologies that might be coming to your office soon.

Teledentistry

Thanks in part to the COVID-19 pandemic, teledentistry has been expanding rapidly — in a recent survey, 34% of dentists reported that they see patients via telehealth platforms or plan to use it in the near future — and it’s projected to be a $2.6B industry by 2027.

A variety of services fall under the teledentistry umbrella, including:

  • Teleconsultation, in which a patient receives a consultation via a mobile device or computer
  • Telediagnosis, where images and data received from patients are used to evaluate and diagnose dental issues
  • Telemonitoring, where patients who have undergone treatment can be monitored without frequent in-person visits to the dentist

Along with making dental care more accessible to patients during the pandemic, teledentistry has proven to be a useful tool treating for underserved populations. Low-income patients, rural patients, elderly patients in assisted living facilities and physically and intellectually disabled patients can face obstacles with in-person visits.

While teledentistry has shown great promise, the technology associated with it can be challenge for both dentists and patients. To help, we’ve introduced Delta Dental – Virtual Consult. This free, video-based platform enables you to consult with Delta Dental members virtually through a secure, HIPAA-compliant platform.

Artificial intelligence

While the first thing that pops into you head when you hear the term “artificial intelligence” might be science fiction, the science behind artificial intelligence isn’t fiction. And it’s available to help you right now.

Artificial intelligence, or AI, uses software to process information and learn patterns. As it gathers more information, it learns to assess situations and then make decisions or predict outcomes. As a result, AI can improve your ability to detect dental conditions quickly and accurately, and consistently provide you with the appropriate treatment. In ambiguous situations, AI can provide you with a second opinion.

So far, AI has proven to be a versatile tool for dentists, with these applications:

  • Making objective, consistent diagnoses for issues such as cavities
  • Diagnosing certain dental conditions, especially ones that may be caused by multiple factors, such as jaw issues and canker sores
  • Identifying patients at risk for developing oral cancers
  • Creating precise aligners
  • Determining orthodontic dental plans, including how the patient’s teeth should be moved, how much pressure should be applied to teeth and where pressure points on specific teeth are

Extended reality

Speaking of science fiction, another emerging technology that might have seemed impossible just a few years ago is extended reality, which includes several technologies:

  • Virtual reality (VR), a computer-generated, interactive, three-dimensional reality
  • Augmented reality (AR), an enhanced version of reality that combines real objects with computer-generated images, sounds or other sensory elements
  • Mixed reality (MR), a combination of the two

These technologies have potential applications in the dental field, including:

  • Planning and executing oral and maxillofacial surgeries, particularly implant placement and head and neck reconstructions. For example, with mandibular and maxillary reconstructions, a study found an excellent match between the virtual surgery plans and the actual outcomes, including the resection planes and the distance between the transplanted segments and the bone.
  • Education and training. Immersive 3D training with haptic feedback can be an effective and cost-saving training tool. Particularly useful is the ability to not only simulate a procedure in 3D, but also to be able to feel how much pressure to apply during drilling, cutting and milling through haptic feedback. The virtual simulations also enable students to assess their performance and then refine their technique.

3D printing

Invented in the early 1980s, 3D printers transform digital files into physical objects by stacking layers of material to form three-dimensional objects. Today, 3D printers can make objects from a variety of materials, including metals, ceramics, plastics and plaster.

3D printers are so adept at creating dental devices that the dental industry has become one of the leading users of 3D printing. Clear aligners are one of the highest volume applications for 3D printing technologies in the world.

3D printers may enable dental labs and offices to produce dental devices more quickly, accurately, consistently and inexpensively than human technicians can. With this improving technology and the exponential growth of clear aligner production, it’s estimated that by 2022 as many as 500 million dental devices and restorations will be produced annually with 3D printing technology. These include:

  • Crowns
  • Bridges
  • Dentures
  • Dental models
  • Retainers
  • Surgical guides for implants
  • Veneers
  • Orthodontic models

These are just a few of the innovations coming to your office soon. New technology continues to provide innovative ways to help you improve the accuracy, efficiency and value of the dental care you provide to your patients.

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