Tuesday, 11 April 2023

Teledentistry Leverages Access to Better Dental Healthcare

What is Teledentistry?

Teledentistry is an emerging field of dentistry that has been gaining popularity in recent years (the idea came way back in 1989 but has recently seen an unprecedented surge in adoption due to the COVID-19 pandemic). The practice of teledentistry itself refers to the use of telecommunication technology to provide dental care and consultation to patients remotely. It has four general applications: remote consultation, remote education, remote monitoring, and telesurgery. Whenever an internet network is available, teledentistry may very well leverage access to better dental healthcare.

The most common issues that have been lagging the delivery of dental healthcare services in both developed and developing countries are lower dental-healthcare-provider-to-population ratio, the travel distances to an adequate dental facility in remote areas (to meet and consult with doctors to receive prescriptions or to acquire medication itself), and the burdening cost of accessing quality dental healthcare services.

However, as the world continues to move towards remote healthcare solutions, teledentistry presents a promising outlook for the future of dentistry. It was first developed as a way to tackle some of the issues mentioned above; still, the development of remote tech that enables the communication between patients and practitioners from long distances is startlingly expensive initially; the good news is, it has now become way more affordable with more products coming down the line providing teledentistry services.

Adoption of Teledentistry

Although the internet is very common and highly accessible most of the time nowadays, the adoption of teledentistry tech was not as fast as it was hoped for. These are caused by the high capital costs required for implementing its many hardware and software solutions; other than that, there are valid concerns from regulators and many involved parties regarding the safety and privacy of its clients’ data gathered through the use of its tech; which could range from a record of the patient’s health log to the image, video, and sound recorded and sent to the practitioners.

However, one of the many teledentistry products that we got to get our hands on previously might pose a solution to meet the above concerns; it is Dr. Clobo’s portable handheld camera device, which is promoted as a counseling app that connects you with a doctor anywhere, anytime. Purchasing the device will set you back $100 (American) and get you the camera device and access to their proprietary app that shows you the list of practitioners you can choose to consult and communicate with.

Illustration of Dr. Clobo’s Camera and its Proprietary App (Image: Dr. Clobo)

The gist of the product is this, you can capture images and short-form videos using the camera device, send them to the doctors of your choosing, and they can reply back through the app with an early diagnosis based on what you sent and a bit of follow-up advice on what to do next. The app also promises the security of your data from any parties not privy to the services by using encryption technology during data transfer.

Cooperation between Dr Clobo and Indonesia's University of Gajah Mada Dentistry Department
Dentayori helps Dr. Clobo Team connect with Indonesia’s University of Gajah Mada’s Dentistry Department Members for Future Collaboration

It is an interesting device as the price is also quite reasonable and checks three out of the four main teledentistry applications; not bad at all, we say. Will Dr. Clobo’s camera and its app package become an effective tool in helping dental patients remotely? The jury is still out on that as the tech is fairly recent, and the field of teledentistry, in general, is still in its infancy. But we believe as technology continues to evolve, its potential will only continue to grow.

More Teledentistry Development

Some more exciting tech that is currently developing in the area of teledentistry are:

  • Artificial Intelligence (AI)
    • As chatGPT, a famous AI tech that can give prompt consultation (Microsoft’s Bing is one example of its use) to bring more precise search results, keeps on growing and being integrated into many different tech products, we believe AI could also be used to assist in teledentistry consultations and diagnoses. The AI could help analyze patient data and images to help dentists make more accurate diagnoses and treatment plans.
  • Virtual reality (VR)
    • Virtual reality is a computer-generated simulation that looks and feels almost like a real environment that can be interacted with using a special electronic device. The VR tech could be used to provide patients with a more immersive dental experience. Patients could virtually “visit” a dental office and experience dental procedures before undergoing them in real life, reducing anxiety and increasing patient comfort. One of the companies taking the VR route to help relieve patients’ anxiety is X-Cura from Japan. (We met with the X-Cura team and hosted them in Indonesia before in 2021).

The team from Dr. Clobo and X-Cura that we got to talk to both mentioned that they wanted to improve the quality and quantity of patient engagement. Dr. Clobo aims to provide patients with the convenience of receiving dental care from the comfort of their homes; meanwhile, X-Cura looks forward to improving patient-dentist relationships by rendering dental services more comfortable and relaxing.

Participants Trying Out VR Device to Increase Patients Comfortability During Dentistry Procedure
Participants Trying Out X-Cura XR Therapy’s Device on an Event Hosted by Dentayori

Although teledentistry cannot replace the visual and auditory examination and hands-on treatment that is most often required for a dental procedure, we think there is a promising outlook for adopting teledentistry in the years to come, as the benefits outweigh the risks (the reliance on complicated, expensive tech and the security and privacy concerns of a data breach). Check back often on our blog as we bring more articles highlighting cost-effective and efficient ways to improve dental care.