The five myths of tele-dentistry

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Your dentist probably never told you about these.

1. “Tele-dentistry” does not mean “DIY”

Tele-dentistry is the use of technologies to deliver virtual dental services. More specifically, Tele-Orthodontics (the correction of malpositioned teeth), is often confused with “Do-It-Yourself” orthodontics, where people attempt to move their teeth without the input or supervision of a trained professional. This cannot be more wrong. The involvement of dentists, dental specialists and dental technicians throughout the process is equally important and is an integral part of what makes tele-orthodontics effective. This is what makes it safe. You should never be left feeling alone in your entire journey of straightening your teeth.

2. It is a new technology and hence is untested and high-risk

The concept of visits to a doctor being enhanced by technology has been around for DECADES!!! Non-serious health problems like sinusitis were the first to be managed with virtual doctor visits only, and it was found that treatment was just as successful for patients who used tele-medicine as for those who visited the doctor in person. Slowly, this idea grew, and dentistry later joined the technological revolution with great success. A systematic review, which is the highest level of scientific evidence available, found that the diagnosis of dental decay was just as accurate (and much quicker!) using tele-dentistry as for those people who went to a physical clinic. More importantly, all cases should first be thoroughly reviewed for suitability for virtual treatment. Only minor to moderate cases are recommended for such platforms. 

Expert Tip: Always make sure that a qualified dentist is assessing if you’re suitable for tele-dentistry before you embark on braces / clear aligners with any teeth straightening aligner company!

3. X-Rays of my teeth are a must-have for prescription of orthodontic treatment – hence tele-dentistry is not “safe” because it does not offer that.

The standard procedure for orthodontic treatment is to go through a full dental history, photographs, get moulds of their teeth taken and often a number of x-rays, before having an appliance fitted. With modern technology, all of this can be done remotely, with the obvious exception of the x-rays. The lack of x-rays would seem to pose a problem for tele-orthodontics, but in fact it has helped to clearly define the role of tele-orthodontics within the profession. 

Where alignment of the front teeth only is desired, the most recent European guidelines from the British Orthodontic Society state that x-rays should not be taken in these cases, because the risks of x-rays outweigh their benefits. So for non-complex cases, involving cosmetic, minimal tooth movements to improve the smile only, tele-orthodontics is the ideal solution.

4. My dentist must see me regularly face-to-face to check ongoing progress

This depends on the severity of your case. For those who qualify for tele-orthodontics, it means that your case is typically classified as suitable for remote monitoring via virtual telecommunication platforms. If you belong to this category, what the dentist “sights” when you see him/her face-to-face can be replicated via photographs upload from your mobile device! Some like the comfort of physical interaction, however, if you actually boil it down, you spend 1-2 minutes exchanging pleasantries, and another 4-5 minutes on the dentist chair as he checks your teeth progress and answer any queries you may have. Not to mention the waiting time at the clinic or the transport time to get there. All of these can be handled and managed via virtual platforms!

By selectively treating only low-complexity, low-risk patients, tele-orthodontics frees up valuable time for our dental specialists to treat more complex cases which require x-rays, in-office visits and more complex appliances. Backed by years of research and hundreds of thousands of successfully treated orthodontic patients, tele-orthodontics is safe, and here to stay.

5. Quality of care is lower for tele-dentistry because I don’t “see” a dentist physically and it is also cheaper

This is one of the BIGGEST MYTH ever! In fact, the quality of care, if set up right, can be equal to that of an in-person dentist visit. The care team or the dentist can set up time with you to chat, even for emergency where you can connect remotely almost instantly. 

The cost of tele-denistry is mostly lower, as you save time, money and a stressful trip to the dental clinic, and also reduce precious dentist’s chair time. This can translate to huge benefits for you, all at the same quality. 

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