Depending on where your dental practice is located, you’ve likely reopened — but notice that patients are hesitant to visit your practice in-person.
These fears aren’t unfounded. The CDC’s COVID-19 Infection Prevention Team warns that dental settings have unique characteristics that warrant specific infection control considerations. Being in an environment where instruments create visible sprays with particle droplets of saliva, blood, and microorganisms feels risky, even where case numbers are low.
Now, we’d be remiss in failing to mention how there haven't been any COVID cases connected to dental practices as of yet. But with surfaces potentially being contaminated for 3 hours, industry professionals need to find a way to treat clients who refuse to visit their offices.
What can fill this gap in dental care?
Increasingly, it looks like teledentistry might be the answer.
Teledentistry applies the same principles of telehealth, except with the scope only revolving around oral health.
This kind of care utilizes various technologies to provide dental care and education to treat patients remotely.
Through the following methods (and more), dental professionals can provide “tele-dental” services to their patients:
Eventually, there will be a vaccine for COVID. At that point, fears over the virus will begin to subside. However, that doesn’t mean that teledentistry is only temporary.
Once you’ve shown patients the capabilities of teledentistry, it’s akin to opening Pandora’s box. Sure, there’s going to be instances where in-person visits are unavoidable. Yet research shows that patient success-rates are the same when they use telehealth compared to when they don’t.
Therefore, this convenient form of care doesn’t seem to come at the cost of quality.
There’s also the matter of general dental anxiety. Some patients fear oral care for reasons outside of the pandemic. Teledentistry provides these people with an option to avoid dealing with the stress of in-person visits.
It seems like teledentistry will remain a significant part of many practices, even when everything returns to "normal."
Let’s take a look at the benefits that clearly outline why teledentistry is here to stay:
Virtual consultations manage to mitigate potential miscalculations for appointment times. The nature of emergency treatments isn’t always apparent when only a phone call is involved, leading to dentists blocking off too much time. Similar missteps occur with more straightforward visits for prescriptions.
Knowing how long appointments streamlines that day and ensures time is being spent most efficiently. Plus, prescribing medications during virtual calls opens up chair-time to patients who need it.
Teledentistry can be a fantastic boon for people that live in communities with limited access to dental care. They can receive guidance and prescriptions to better their oral health while at home or in the office. That's a far more realistic option than driving 2 hours for a half-hour examination!
Moreover, it gives you a chance to expand your patient-base by offering routine care to people who usually can't access it.
Many patients are incredibly busy with their work and family. Teledentistry will meet these people in the middle. They won’t need to block off big chunks of time to drive and sit around at the office on top of the appointment.
Other patients lack transportation, and teledentistry offers them an alternative to paying an expensive cab fare or bothering someone for a ride.
You’ll want to strike while the iron is hot with teledentistry because it’s not going anywhere — even when the pandemic is long gone. As technology advances and patients begin to expect more from their dental care, adopting this technology will be a primary component of any thriving practice.
Gone are the days when a sole practitioner could know clients by name and store their information in a single file cabinet. Most dental hygiene offices have many patients and sometimes multiple practitioners and hygienists.
However, even smaller practices have a duty to ensure the most accurate record keeping and efficient customer service possible.
Computer software solutions help to make that possible and there are a number of excellent packages designed specifically to meet the needs of the dental health community.
Here are five such software solutions especially good for use in a busy practice:
One of the main concerns of any practice with mounds of data is computer reliability. What if your hard drive crashes and you don’t have a back-up of your patient data?
Cloud storage is an excellent remedy and Curve Dental allows practitioners to send digital images from an array of devices directly to the cloud. That way, if disaster should strike, you need not worry about the practice’s most important resource. Curve’s easy-to-use software also offers efficient options for charting, scheduling, credit card processing, billing, and online patient forms.
Practice management can be overwhelming without the right program to keep everything organized and accessible. There are a number of options to choose from here, but Ace Dental offers more features than most of them. Fortunately, ease of use is one of this program’s strongest assets.
Patient records are a snap to retrieve, and the system provides other pertinent data with little more than a single mouse click per inquiry. Your appointment schedule also has all of the necessary treatment details included. This safeguards against confusion over who is appearing at what time, and what they require. Ace also makes the organization and sending of insurance claims simple, and that allows administrative staff to devote their shift time to other important duties.
Denticon is another cloud-based option that offers excellent storage and retrieval options. It assists with both administrative and clinical treatment components, providing ample room for the inclusion of detailed patient treatment histories and insurance details.
In a nice touch, Denticon helps to revive a bit of the old-time service feel from days past. Practitioners can include personalized messages on patient statements that provide handy reminders of treatment methods or other important details discussed during appointments. It also incorporates a number of other useful features, and solid security ensures patient confidentiality.
Some dental procedures require patients to use medication for a period afterward. Keeping track of such information is tricky, but Dentrix streamlines things and makes the sending and tracing of prescriptions much easier.
The program also offers a flexible and efficient practice management system that will more than suffice for most office needs and patient rosters.
You would be hard-pressed to find a dental professional not in favor of making digital dental imaging and software more efficient and easy to use. Carestream Dental has risen to that challenge and succeeded by providing a system that meets these needs through greater speed and accuracy.
Carestream’s eConnections also helps to consolidate online marketing, appointment reminders, and patient solutions, allowing a practice to consolidate many different responsibilities into a single dashboard. This makes marketing and return on investment decisions much easier to consider.
Once you have the software side of the business sorted out, don’t forget to address your dental hygiene gear. Using the latest and most effective equipment guarantees that you and your staff deliver the latest in oral health care.