Big Changes in Dental Due to COVID-19
If you have ever had dental fillings, crowns, root canals, bridges, implants, or veneers, then you have had “restorative dentistry”. It is called ‘restorative’ because we remove what’s broken or decayed and ‘restore’ with another tooth-like material, like resin or porcelain.
In the PRE COVID-19 days, when a patient called our dental office with pain or a broken tooth or a lost filling, we would then ask them to come into the office, do an exam, take an x-ray, form a diagnosis, and discuss options with our patient. Each option would then have risks, benefits, and costs related to it and discussed, and our patient would make a decision as to how to proceed. Once he/she made that decision, we would then schedule them back on another day to perform the agreed-on dental restorative procedure.
COVID-19 changed that. With the Ministry of Health closing dental offices and only allowing emergency care, which by the way is very limited and requires extensive changes to delivering of that care, dentists all over Canada have been unable to deliver restorative dentistry. The challenge for all dentists came down to how to determine if a patient calling or emailing us is a “true” emergency under the definition we were provided, or can be helped remotely, and avoid close contact with others. A solution to finding out more information was brought to us and, frankly, it has been an amazing change for all of us, dentists and patients.
Tele-dentistry, the use of information and communication technologies to provide dental care remotely can enable dentists to triage emergency and urgent dental care and provide non-essential services while avoiding close contact with patients. So yes, it’s great for dentists during this pandemic. However, what I observed while delivering this service, tele-dentistry delivered something even more important: the ability for my patients to have one-on-one conversation with me (their dentist) in order to discuss their dental issue, or their concern, ask any questions, talk about “what if” and not be concerned about their dentist being pulled away or rushed to go to another patient. So the amazing thing that came out of this is: TIME.
As we go back to work POST COVID-19, the rules, at least for the first few months, will be very tough and challenging. Increases in PPE (Personal Protective Equipment), 3 hour waits before the next patient can be seen in the treatment room, inability to leave the room to “get something”, and so on, will make it difficult or really impossible to go back to the way we floated through the day in and out of rooms and saw many patients. We will be very limited and so we must be able to adapt and use that time we have with the patient in our treatment room wisely.
So tele-dentistry will be part of the “new normal”. The time we used to spend during the typical “exam” can now be exchanged for an online consultation with our patients. Examples of what we can do as dentists through tele-dentistry include the following:
- Patient education, instruction, advice, or counselling
- Assessment or evaluation for existing or new conditions or lesions, or for the fit of appliances
- Monitoring or follow-up for existing ongoing treatment, new devices, or following up on recent treatment
- Consultations and treatment planning for existing or new patients, and for existing or new conditions
What to expect during a “tele-dentistry” consultation during and after COVID-19:
- We will review your medical history (and if you are a new patient to our office, you will be asked to fill out a medical history form prior to this consultation)
- We will review your x-rays (if we have any, or if any were transferred from another office)
- We will discuss your current issue or condition and any symptoms associated with it; I may ask you to push on your tooth or tap it maybe do something else to help me narrow down what the problem could be
- We will discuss your goals and concerns
- We will discuss possible conclusions and outcomes and the risks, benefits and options as well as cost associated with each
- We will address any questions or concerns you may have to help you make the decision to move forward once you come into the office and I can then determine the actual issue
This online consultation will allow us to narrow down what the problem is so that by the time you do come into the office, you will have a good idea of what you want to do. Information as well as Informed Consent will be sent to you based on the particular possible outcomes we discussed in the consultation. This will allow us to ensure there is adequate time to do whatever needs to be done when you do come into the office, thereby minimizing the number of visits and allowing us to deliver more comprehensive dentistry in that one visit.
If you are a new patient to our office, you will receive some forms to read over and fill out so that our online consultation can be optimal and comprehensive.
Tele-dentistry, as opposed to email or phone, allows us to confirm the identity of the patient, as per our governing body guidelines. If the treatment requires only medication, or a referral, then we are able to take care of that remotely, by calling in a prescription to your drug store or sending a referral to the specialist we want you to see. As a result, it will save many patients time and the hassle of coming in only to have to go elsewhere or go get a prescription.
Contact us for your Oakville dentistry
If you have any questions about tele-dentistry or online consultations, do not hesitate to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Your safety and the safety of my team is my top priority.