How telemedicine can facilitate oral care
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THE benefits of telemedicine are widely praised for the treatment of all sorts of health care problems. Telemedicine gives patients the opportunity to speak to their doctors out of office via digital means including using text, voice and/or video calls. They are able to get treatment in the comfort and convenience of their preferred location for most non-emergent symptoms. Additionally, patients are able to be guided accordingly if they need to head into their doctor’s office for additional in-person treatment and they are able to get prescriptions digitally to treat their issues accordingly.

What many may not consider is that telemedicine is beneficial across all forms of health care, including oral care. Sure, you may think that oral care must require your dentist to be there with you in person assessing your mouth and gums using the tools and bright lights found in every dentist’s office. However, oral care extends far past just seeing your dentist and telemedicine can provide several benefits across a wide array of oral health concerns.

In its simplest terms, oral care refers to the practice of keeping your mouth clean and disease-free. Essentially, oral care is preventative care. There are several ways to do this without actually having to sit in a doctor’s or dentist’s chair. Telemedicine is a useful tool for filling the gaps in oral care for non-emergent and non-invasive oral care practices. Becoming increasingly popular under the name ‘teledentistry’, telemedicine for oral care is just one further step into the modernisation of health care today. While there will be instances where you may have to actually have a doctor or dentist physically examine your mouth, the following are some ways you can benefit from telemedicine for oral care.

• Improved access to oral healthcare by treating non-emergent symptoms — Those that may have difficulty accessing health care locations in-person whether based on disabilities or because they are located in remote areas or simply because they have busy schedules, can access benefits through telemedicine. This allows patients who may otherwise opt not to be treated to get increased access to health care. This is suited for preventative care as well as treatment for non-emergent symptoms. Those who may possibly need a prescription to treat a mouth sore or tooth pain, or even those who have braces and need to conduct follow-up sessions with their orthodontist can all benefit from the services provided by telemedicine platforms.

• Aids in the convenience of knowledge sharing and access to health care advice for patients — Patients are able to gain access to health care services and advice on oral care from the comfort of their homes or the convenience of their offices through telemedicine and teledentistry. Patients may learn all they need for preventative care ensuring they don’t get to a point where they may need in-person or emergency treatment. This may include preventative measures for cavities and gum disease. Advice may include guidance on your diet, substance abuse and hygiene practices. Consulting with your doctor or dentist on oral health education through telemedicine is a great benefit of utilising these digital platforms. Since anyone can access telemedicine care through the internet and a smart device, anyone is able to utilise the advice of a doctor or dentist on how to better take care of their oral health.

• Assessments can determine more serious medical conditions — Telemedicine can help spot if they are symptoms of a more serious matter and keep track of any changes in symptoms that may require additional treatment. Some oral symptoms you may think are not that serious can be a sign of a bigger medical issue. Meeting with a physician online to go over some of your persistent symptoms can help a patient uncover this and seek additional medical attention. For example, persistent bleeding or sore gums can be a sign of diabetes, which may need further assessment by a physician in person. Patients can send photos of their physical symptoms and have the doctor assess these photos and guide a diagnosis and treatment plan, if necessary.

• Facilitates follow-up treatment — If you had recently undergone some form of oral procedure such as removing your wisdom tooth, telemedicine can provide a convenient means for both you and your doctor to follow up on your recovery. Through video calls, texts with photos or phone calls, you can explain to your doctor how your healing may be going since your treatment and let them know any issues you may be having. This can remove the inconvenience of going into a doctor’s office, particularly if your healing is going smoothly and you have no issues requiring additional care.

Much like any form of telemedical care, it is not meant to replace in-person care altogether. It is solely meant to supplement and provide easier access to care to those that may need it or may need a more convenient option. Many oral health care issues will indeed require your doctor to physically examine inside your mouth and your teeth and while you may be able to provide photos and videos to them for this assessment, it cannot fully replace the clarity they will get from doing this in-person. If you do, however, think your symptoms can be fairly assessed virtually, then it is encouraged to take full advantage of the benefits that telemedicine will offer.

Dr Ché Bowen, a digital health entrepreneur and family physician, is the CEO & founder of MDLink, a digital health company that provides telemedicine options. Check out the company’s website at www.theMDLink.com. You can also contact him at drchebowen@themdlink.com.

Dr Ché Bowen

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