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Teledentistry: An alternative for

hygienists to practice outside of


the traditional op
August 21, 2017
By Amber Auger, RDH, MPH
At year-end in 2016, approximately 212 million Americans, or 66% of the population, had
dental benefits, leaving a staggering 36% with no coverage.(1) The lack of dental insurance
leads to missed dental care and can inhibit necessary preventive treatment, such as sealants,
oral hygiene education, and fluoride. This missed preventive treatment can lead to dental
emergencies. Each year, 738,000 Americans visit the emergency room for dental pain.(1)
Teledentistry could be the answer to this dental epidemic.
What is Teledentistry
Teledentistry allows patients to have preventive services completed on site through a variety
of technologies. As dental hygienists, we provide all the necessary preventive services such
as dental cleanings, x-rays, sealants, and fluoride varnishes. We use an intraoral camera to
capture an up close and personal view of the overall condition/health of the hard/soft
tissues and the tooth structure.

We can then transmit this information to a licensed dentist


off-site for evaluation. The dentist obtains the information from cloud-based software to
provide a diagnosis of the patients needs. Patients receive a consultation with the dentist
through web consultant, patient portal, and/or phone call.
Portable equipment allows the hygienist to create a treatment room in essentially any
location. This improves access to care in nontraditional locations such schools, nursing
homes, and conference rooms, which can be transformed into a private treatment room.
The same high clinical standards of safety, quality, and sterilization are used to ensure ethics
are not compromised in a nontraditional field. The services are documented through cloud-
based software and may be submitted directly to the patient's insurance. Through the
utilization of teledentistry, hygienists can equip patients with the educational tools needed to
prevent disease and complete treatment before the patients needs progress.
Teledentistry allows oral health care to be provided in remote areas and nontraditional
environments, as well as facilitate collaboration with primary care physicians and emergency
room doctors. It provides a virtual dental consultation using intraoral photos taken by the
clinician on site.
Teledentistry will increase the access to care and allow dental professionals to prevent
disease for patients in remote areas, those with restricted resources, and elevate the way we
practice with medical professionals. Teledentistry is the future of our profession.