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Teledentistry Expands Access for the Nation’s Most Vulnerable

In any year, more than 50 percent of children, 56 percent of seniors, and about 64 percent of working-age adults in the United States do not receive dental services on a regular schedule. Today, one way to reach these people is through technology and, more specifically, teledentistry.

With a focus on testing solutions, DentaQuest launched a teledentistry pilot earlier this year at 13 Advantage Dental practices in Oregon to help improve access to care for patients in rural areas.

To level set, let’s define teledentistry.

Teledentistry refers to a variety of technologies and tactics used to virtually deliver oral health and education services. These technologies provide the opportunity for a patient to receive services when they are in one location and their care provider is in another.

But why is this important?

Many Americans who lack access to regular dental care live far from the nearest dental office, have a complex medical or physical condition, or even reside in places like assisted living that makes it difficult to visit a dentist.

These individuals have significantly worse oral health than those who do receive regular dental care, and many people end up in emergency departments with painful and expensive issues. Oral disease—which includes the mouth, teeth and gums—negatively impacts overall health, quality of life, economic opportunity, and the ability to manage serious chronic disease like diabetes.

Nationwide, dedicated telehealth-connected teams are leading efforts to bring oral health care services to hard-to-reach patients – meeting them where they live, work and go to school.

What’s happening in Oregon?

For DentaQuest’s pilot in Oregon, a dedicated dentist is working with the staff via telecommunications technology at each of the 13 locations to help increase appointment availability for patients in areas where there’s a shortage of providers.

In several community settings, the providers are also using existing electronic dental health record systems to identify and then provide additional services in line with state law. In addition to offering cleanings and other preventive dental care, some expanded practice dental hygienists can administer local anesthesia and provide temporary restorations.

Teledentistry plays a critical role in Preventistry ® -- DentaQuest’s all-in approach to improving the oral health of all -- by increasing access to preventive, person-centered care; creating opportunities to advance technical innovations; and expanding medical-dental integration. Teledentistry is also improving patient health outcomes and increasing both provider and patient engagement.

You can learn more about the challenges and successes of several teledentistry models in California, Colorado and Oregon by viewing this recorded webinar Teledentistry: Closing Gaps in Oral Health. Read more about teledentistry in a recent report authored by one of the leading teledentistry experts, Dr. Paul Glassman, at https://www.dentaquestpartnership.org/teledentistrywhitepaper