What Does Teledentistry Bring To Oral Health?
What Does Teledentistry Bring To Oral Health?
It communicates; it tells you. It’d probably be a homonym or a homophone or a homograph something like that if it wasn’t a prefix.
At one time, it was a word.
‘Tele’ was the accepted spelling of the contraction of ‘television’ before it sadly became ‘telly’. It was in the days before it had remote control; which we all laughed at because really, how lazy can you get?
That’s what kids were for. Part of the policy for maintaining a freeloader lifestyle was that you had to get up and change the channel on command – which could be any one of the whole 4 on offer. There was no flicking through channels while ads were on; that clicky dial was treated with respect! All well before midnight.
After that, if you were ever lucky enough to still be up, maybe during an endless school holiday, it was just test patterns and a piercing monotone.
It made you feel like an extra in a Hitchcock film; a dystopian warning that the whole world was dead asleep with seconds to choose which you’d be.
‘Telly’ becoming the recognised spelling felt the same as when ‘gaol’ became ‘jail’: just because it’s accepted, doesn’t mean it’s right.
There’s a list of virtuous dilemmas like that.
Just because you can doesn’t mean you should; just because it’s popular doesn’t mean it’s good; just because something makes sense doesn’t mean it’s true – and conversely, just because something doesn’t make sense doesn’t mean it’s not true.
See quantum physics about that those last two. Probably consult a cat.
Same with superstition. And ditto with a cat.
As far as popularity being no indication of quality, there are plenty of books, movies, series, sitcoms and teledramas to attest to that.
You know what I did there. You looked at the word twice. A subtle attempt to telegraph something; possibly engaging an aspect of telepathy.
Depending on how many people have read this before other people do, parapsychologist Rupert Sheldrake would certainly claim morphic resonance there.
It’s a stretch. Happens with anything that’s ‘far off’. Which is what ‘tele’ means.
Telescope, telegram, telephone, telecast, teleport – you get it; given by the Ancient Greeks.
‘Vision’ with its root ‘vis’ is Latin. ‘Television’ unifies the words of two cultures once at war. A tenuous, unsolicited insight into what makes the small screen so conflicting. Just because it feels good doesn’t mean it’s good for you.
And just because it doesn’t feel good doesn’t mean it’s not good for you.
Which pretty much covers being healthy, really.
For some, it’s the exercise. For others it’s modifying, monitoring and modulating a deliciously detrimental diet to one that is wholesome, healthsome and full of husks.
For many, if not most, dental visits and flossing fall into the just-because-it-doesn’t-feel-good-doesn’t-mean-it’s-not-good-for-you category; the phrase somehow delivered in your mum or dad’s voice as an echo from childhood.
There was no teledentistry then. And like everything old that’s new again, it’s been around for longer than you might think.
It first came about in 1989. The year freedom was brutally massacred in Tiananmen Square, India shifted from single party rule to a future of coalition governments, and the Berlin Wall came down.
It was the year the Ayatollah Khomeini decided that the book The Satanic Verses was blasphemous, and issued a big fat permanent fatwa $US3 million against author Salmon Rushdie and its publishers Viking Penguin on Valentine’s Day.
It might not sound like much, but it resulted in book bannings and burnings, violent protests and numerous deaths because the sometimes the pen is not mightier than the sword.
For Salvador Dali in 1989, there was no more persistence, just memory. Asteroid Asclepius missed Earth by an astronomically paltry 700,000 kilometres – the equivalent of 25 round trips from Sydney to the North Pole. Had it entered our orbit a mere six hours earlier, the resulting collision would have had the force of a dozen atomic bombs.
Very big. In precisely the same year that Motorola was busily launching the world’s smallest mobile phone, designed to fit a pocket – 23 centimetres and weighing more than a can of soup.
And all the while, there were large discussions on dental informatics going on.
Five years later came the pilot programme. It consisted of fifteen US Army periodontal patients, and named the Total Dental Access (TDA) Project.
Their follow-up care was digital intraoral photos taken in a dental clinic for the supervising dentist 195 kilometres away. It was sent via a 9600 baud modem – the prohibitively expensive internet precursor at the time.
This military adoption of teledentistry soon moved into the community. A joint effort by the armed forces Mobile Dental Clinic and the Children’s Hospital Los Angeles was undertaken, to treat children in remote areas.
Thus the Tooth Fairy gained her worldwide web wings.
2020’s COVID-19 pandemic across the globe made dental visits impossible for months.
Not only for reasons of contamination, but to preserve critical supplies of personal protection equipment. Overall, there was massive and concerning deterioration in oral health, with the knock-on effect of a massive increase in emergency department consultations and prescriptions for antibiotics.
It was an abrupt beginning for a new and different patient-provider relationship.
It required the implementation of robust portals for security and privacy. Providers had to be able to navigate new systems and technology, while creating and maintaining a level of trust and competence with mostly hesitant patients.
This initial relationship was a challenging one, but it held compelling benefits. It was this novel basis that networked and knitted confidence and loyalty in unexpectedly patient, patients.
There’s immediacy, and continuity of care in teledentistry.
High-risk children in rural areas can be shipped fluoride varnish kits while a virtual-appointment dentist livestreams correct application.
Dental examinations are similarly successful; providing incredible benefit to nursing homes and skilled care facilities. Particularly in dental emergency situations.
With teledentistry, patients can access referrals, prescriptions, and clinical advice for an urgent issue without travelling or having to wait for an appointment. It removes any issues of physical accessibility, weekends or weather-related events.
We’ve certainly had to get used to those, all over the planet. They’re rarely called ‘disasters’ now – they’re ‘incidents’ and ‘events’. Like shark attacks.
The increased efficiency of teledentistry extends to in-person appointments.
It streamlines pre-appointment preparation. Easy and immediate access to records gives precision to staffing and equipment decisions and needs, which makes better use of onsite time for both the patient and clinician.
These changes continually expand and improve the parameters of patient-centred dental care, leading always, to better oral health and reduced cost.
Remote consultations, and the ability to more frequently monitor the progress of patients needing more intensive management, is highly beneficial in terms of positive outcomes for complex treatments.
The standards and expectations of brick-and-mortar dental clinics apply to teledentistry. There’s adherence to privacy laws, accredited and skilled providers, documentation, and appropriate and definitive after treatment care.
All of this, with remote control.
We’re not laughing at it now.
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