A 'bridge over troubled healthcare': Integrating teledentistry with telehealth

Integrating teledentistry into telehealth could be part of the solution to closing the distance between oral and overall healthcare.

The TeleDentists, a network of dentists offering teledentistry services, recently launched the first integrated dental-medical platform.

Leah Sigler, president of the TeleDentists, spoke with Becker's on May 6 to discuss what integrating teledentistry into telehealth would look like and how it could help patients.

Editor's note: Responses have been lightly edited for length and clarity.

Question: Where does teledentistry fit into the idea of integrating oral and overall healthcare?

Leah Sigler: There are so many different aspects that you can integrate teledentistry and primary care. We can teach nurses and technicians how to apply fluoride so that kids that go in to see their primary care [physician] can get their fluoride application during their time there and it's all billable codes. The [American Academy of Family Physicians] are all calling for the integration of dentistry into primary care, and we finally have the tool to be able to do that in the technological space. Being able to use technology to leverage that and access a dentist 24/7 is the way that we can do that with ease.

Q: Do you see integrated oral and overall healthcare spaces becoming more common in the future? If so, what does that look like?

LS: Absolutely. That's our goal. [The TeleDentists] just went to the American Telehealth Association and there were all these amazing telehealth companies that have telederm, telepsych, you name it. Not a single one of them is including dentistry yet. So our goal is to be the bridge over troubled healthcare by including dentistry and oral health. We know, the science is there that it improves overall health by including dentistry and oral health. So if [telehealth companies] just open their minds to the fact that teledentistry is here ... if they finally added that little tooth button icon to their telehealth app or platform and included dentistry, it would be amazing to see the increase in overall health, the decrease in healthcare cost, and the decrease in basic and even major restorations.

Adding dentistry or teledentistry into the primary care and telehealth space is a win-win for not only telehealth companies that have added a service, which means added revenue, but it's also improving patients' oral health and total body health.

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