Dental health and teledentistry in the world of COVID-19

The COVID-19 pandemic has changed a lot of things, including how people get dental care. Early on, dentist offices closed entirely, unable to offer anything but emergency services while the country adapted to the new reality.

But just because there’s a pandemic going on doesn’t mean you stop taking care of your teeth.

“It’s so critical that we maintain our routine care, especially with kids,” said Teri Barichello, DMD, vice president and chief dental officer for Moda Health. “Dental disease, gum disease, cavities – it doesn’t stop because there’s a pandemic.”

Although most dentist offices closed at the start of the pandemic, they are now back open and providing regular dental services, including checkups and cleanings. To help ensure the health and safety of patients, dental offices have taken additional safety and infection control measures. 

They’ve also started more regularly offering a new technology for patients who may not feel comfortable coming into the office: Teledentistry.

Essentially the dental equivalent of telehealth, teledentistry allows dentists to see patients in real time but from a distance through video conferencing or other communication apps like Facetime. It can also be done over the phone or through email or text. Moda Health and Dental Delta have even set up an online portal where patients can answer a series of questions and submit photos to their dentists to see if they need to come into the office.

“It really allows the dentist to triage and determine how urgent the issue is and if it warrants an in-person visit,” Barichello said.

Although dentistry is a very hands-on practice, Barichello said that teledentistry is an effective tool for general exams and consultations. She also said it allows dentists to communicate with patients and parents and answer any questions they have, which can provide valuable peace of mind. 

“There is really great value in that,” she said. 

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