Times have certainly changed. Once upon a time, online dental check-ups would have been seen as gimmicky or trivial. But even a local dentist Stevenage to Scunthorpe attempted moving services online during the lockdown. And as people have emerged from restrictions, many patients see the merit in online assessments. So here, online check-ups are explored, along with how they can affect surgeries and patients’ experiences.
Impact of the internet on healthcare
As a rapid communication tool, the internet has had both pros and cons. Allowing people to access information is only as good as the quality of information that they find. With bad news and dramatic headlines getting more traction and spreading further than good quality research, many medical professionals find themselves having to debunk false information or de-escalate a panicked patient. Who, with the aid of Dr Google, diagnoses themselves with something very serious from relatively minor symptoms.
Is treatment possible online?
In dentistry, there are always going to be a lot of procedures that require a clinic. And any attempt to provide services entirely online is unlikely to go beyond diagnosis and check-ups. But there are a few exceptions, like clear aligners, which can be used entirely independently of surgery. By mixing at-home dental moulding kits with regular online video calls, the entire orthodontic treatment schedule can be carried out purely digitally!
How do online checkups work?
Online checkups come in 2 different options. One operates as a video call, where you meet ‘face to face’ with your dental team, they ask and you respond. This gives the opportunity for the clinician to see facial responses and perhaps address some difficult questions. Other systems use a text-based interface, mixed with clinically relevant photos. These are usually carried out via mobile phone apps. Well before the meeting begins, there is a tutorial, showing you how to take photos of the inside of your mouth with appropriate lighting and at the correct angles. These photos can be used to make an assessment with any questions or queries being explored by the chat function.
There are skills required to get the most out of this kind of interaction. Different from traditional in-clinic dentistry. And some clinicians find it challenging and it can create potential barriers.
Getting the best of both worlds
What happened during a lockdown was that many clinics simply could not see patients but had staff available, with little or nothing to do. Many patients wanted to attend the regular check-ups but were not permitted into the clinic. Digital solutions stepped in to bring them together.
This meant that local dental teams were able to make contact with their registered patients in a far more intimate way than the traditional ‘your check-up is due’ letters. This is extended into a form of pre-check-up performed online. A valuable triage system that means dental teams can call in patients that require X-rays or further examinations earlier. And thus minimise the disruption to the daily routine of patients who require minimal care. It has also provided a route for highly anxious patients to get access to dental support in a less distressing way.