Heading into a New Era of Dentistry

Dentistry is always changing. It’s an industry that evolves and strives to embrace technological innovations, cutting-edge research and a growing understanding of our own biology.

Despite the incredible steps forward the industry has taken, the way that people access dental services has remained much the same for decades, with most people continuing to visit offices to receive care. However, what if the way people accessed dental care was as innovative as the industry itself?

Dentistry during the pandemic

It goes without saying that the pandemic made traditional access to dentistry a challenge for several reasons. Not only did the initial lockdown period see the closure of practices for months, but patients were also left with restricted access to emergency services, meaning that many took dentistry into their own hands. Indeed, some sources even state that as much as 25% of people in the United Kingdom performed “DIY dentistry” during lockdown, meaning that millions of people were unable to access the care they needed during this time.[i]

Even though services have reopened and a near-normal level of care has resumed, there are still a number of restrictions that make providing dentistry in the traditional manner an ineffective path forward.  

One factor that we need to consider is how the pandemic has impacted patient confidence. For example, there are likely to still be a number of individuals who are wary about accessing services in the traditional way, especially if this means they need to take public transport or venture to busy areas of a city where chances of virus transmission are likely to be increased.

There’s also the fact that some vulnerable individuals may still be social distancing and therefore unable to venture out and visit the dentist in the traditional manner. Though vaccinations are moving forward at an admirable rate, there are those who for medical reasons cannot receive the vaccine or who have been advised against it.

So, how will modern dentistry react to these challenges?

A more flexible way to access care

If the pandemic taught us anything, it’s that a more flexible approach to life is very achievable. Millions of people moved to working from home, and although dentistry isn’t a desk job, the need to innovate has potentially opened the door to certain opportunities.

For example, although mobile dentistry services have existed for some time, the use of mobile units to provide dental services to people unwilling to travel could arguably be an interesting step forward. Mobile units could potentially help to battle the access crisis, not only by visiting areas that have no nearby dental practices, but also by appealing to those who are unwilling or unable to travel during these times in order to receive care.

Of course, there are challenges connected to mobile dentistry – some treatments may not be performed due to limited resources in a small mobile unit, and there are also cost considerations that must be factored in with running a service like this. However, there is definitely scope for mobile dentistry to improve, and this could make the concept a more viable option in the future.

Another interesting approach that could become the norm is the wider use of teledentistry. Teledentistry, in a nutshell, is the ability to provide a consultation over information technology devices, meaning that it prevents the need for patients to visit practices in person.

The possibilities of teledentistry are exciting – patients could have a virtual consultation to confirm if they actually need a physical appointment, or perhaps even set up virtual meetings with a dental professional for advice and other aspects of oral care. The versatility and ease of access of this type of care means that teledentistry is a very useful tool that could significantly help patients to receive the care and attention they need, without having to leave their homes.

In light of this, Carestream Dental has recently introduced teledentistry capabilities into its Sensei Cloud practice management solution. As a holistic approach to practice management, Sensei Cloud also allows professionals other perks such as anytime, anywhere access to patient files – meaning that it is the perfect system to adapt to changes in how people access dentistry.

Changing times

As dentistry continues to evolve, it’s interesting to think about how dental services will be accessed in years to come. By considering these options and investing in technology to allow for steps such as teledentistry, you can keep ahead of the curve and help provide care for a wider selection of patients—both today and tomorrow.

 

[i] Dentistry. One Quarter of the UK Attempted DIY Dentistry During Lockdown. Link: https://dentistry.co.uk/2020/09/02/one-quarter-attempted-diy-dentistry/ [Last accessed March 21].


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