One of the key characteristics of a dental hygienist is a desire to help. Because it attracts “type A” personalities, the field of dental hygiene is full of hygienists who take action, enjoy problem solving, and go above and beyond to provide solutions to patients’ oral health problems.
Some of these hygienists have an overwhelming desire to provide oral hygiene services in alternative settings. As a public health hygienist, TeleDent has allowed me to receive confirmation of patients’ restorative needs from a remotely supervising dentist.
MouthWatch TeleDent is cloud-based software that allows hygienists or caregivers to capture extraoral and intraoral photos using an intraoral camera. The intraoral camera connects via a tablet or laptop, making it extremely portable, and is the perfect solution for hygienists working in alternative settings. The software enables the hygienist to capture live video and intraoral photos, document the services provided, and relate the possible needs of the patient to the supervising dentist. The dentist then remotely diagnoses the patient’s needs, and a team member follows up to schedule an appointment with the patient.
Because hygienists are unable to diagnose the patient while working in nontraditional environments, patients can sometimes fail to follow through with their treatment needs. Imagine, for example, a team of hygienists serving a low-income area through a sealant program. Through screenings the hygienist determines that the patient has two areas of visible decay. In the past, the hygienist may have send a note home to the parent to receive treatment from a dentist. The overwhelmed parent puts it on the to-do list but the asymptomatic patient and busy parent forget. The decay progresses and eventually leads to the patient requiring the extraction of a once restorable tooth. The TeleDent platform allows hygienists and dentists to collaborate more effectively and provide the treatment the patient needs. In this case, the doctor would review the patients’ photos and prescribe treatment. Team members would contact the parent and coordinate the necessary treatment.
During my recent trip to Nicaragua, I used the TeleDent software. The intraoral images were a powerful patient communication tool to explain the treatment the patient needed. I am often faced with language barriers when traveling internationally, and implementing the MouthWatch system assisted in providing more effective patient education. Collaborating with a local dentist, I utilized Teledent to capture intraoral photos and digital radiographs, and store a summary of the services provided and possible treatment needs. Using this system increased the probability of the patient receiving the treatment they needed.
The easily portable Mouthwatch intraoral camera and compatibility of the TeleDent software with tablets or laptops enables the public-health hygienist to enhance the patient’s services. While it was once overwhelming, time consuming, and inefficient to document services and collaborate with a supervising dentist, MouthWatch has created a unique opportunity for hygienists to fully optimize their degree in alternative settings.
Editor's note: This article first appeared in RDH eVillage. Click here to subscribe.