How dentists have used teledentistry during pandemic: 6 insights

A new report from the CareQuest Institute of Oral Health provides insight into dental providers' use of telehealth during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The report details results from 337 dental providers surveyed from March 9 to April 2. Surveys were conducted in June and August of 2020 and March 2021.

The report suggests that dental providers are becoming more comfortable using telehealth to see patients, but action must be taken to remove barriers keeping providers from adopting the use of telehealth.

Here are six things to know:

  1. The number of providers seeing patients via telehealth dropped between June 2020 and March. Twenty-seven percent of dental providers were using telehealth to see patients in June 2020, compared to 23 percent in August 2020 and 22 percent in March.
  2. Dental providers in public health settings were more likely to use telehealth than those in private settings, with 32 percent of public health dental providers using telehealth compared to 21 percent of private practice providers.
  3. Dental providers using telehealth saw about 7 percent of their patient volume virtually. In a previously conducted survey, 35 percent of dental patients said they were willing to try telehealth, leading the CareQuest Institute to suggest that providers have an opportunity to meet patient demand for telehealth options by increasing the number of patients they see virtually.
  4. The use of various telehealth options increased in 2021, suggesting that providers expanded their telehealth options for patients as they became more comfortable with using it. Sixty-three percent of providers reported using audio-only telephone calls, compared to 60 percent in 2020. Forty-seven percent are using free virtual meeting software, such as Zoom and Skype, compared to 42 percent in August 2020. Thirty-six percent are using paid telehealth software, such as Denteractive and MouthWatch, compared to 29 percent in August 2020.
  5. The report detailed several services dental providers offered via telehealth, including prescriptions, oral examinations, referrals and preventive services.
  6. Of the dental providers who do not use teledentistry, 77 percent said in-person visits are needed for most patients; 22 percent said patients have limited access to technological devices or limited internet connectivity; and 23 percent said state dental plans such as Medicaid do not reimburse for telehealth.

To view the full report, click here.

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