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Teledentistry is much more than a temporary fix

Oct. 14, 2020
After being available for years, teledentistry is finally being adopted by more dental group practices and DSOs. This is largely out of necessity, but James Martorelli says it's something DSOs should consider using long after the pandemic is over.

By Jay Martorelli

Teledentistry has come of age in this time of urgency. Its adoption has been accelerated due to the COVID-driven necessity to reduce the amount of face-to-face patient encounters and replace them with virtual equivalents, especially for emergency triage.

The virtual encounter capability was perfected in the public health sector decades ago and has been available to dental group practices and dental service organizations (DSOs) for almost a decade. Unfortunately, it took a pandemic for the dental industry to take notice.  

Truth be told, many dental practices have been employing teledentistry for years, with the most basic of technologies—a telephone. However, today’s mobile-ready, video-focused teledentistry solutions provide advanced, multidimensional communication capabilities that can deliver a significant improvement to traditional patient engagement and workflows. 

Teledentistry benefits

The benefits of replacing many routine face-to-face patient encounters with live or recorded virtual encounters are much more than COVID-coping solutions. They are now destined to become best practices for patient care, group practice operations, and clinical workflow long after this pandemic has run its course.

What this means for patients is greater access to care, improved satisfaction, and an increased commitment to their oral and overall health. What this means for DSOs and dental group practices is the enhanced ability to deliver greater access to care in their communities while simultaneously increasing bottom line revenue. 

Yet not all teledentistry platforms are the same. DSOs and group practices require an enterprise-grade, scalable teledentistry software platform such as TeleDent from MouthWatch. TeleDent has a unique suite of features that enable multiple practice locations to offer provider-to-provider-with-patient or provider-direct-to-patient data sharing and communication in both asynchronous (store and forward) and synchronous (live) modes. This leads to increased scheduling flexibility and convenience. 

Much of TeleDent’s patient/provider interaction occurs via its mobile-friendly patient portal. Most patients are already familiar with patient portals thanks to their experiences with the portals used by physicians and hospitals.

Here’s what capabilities DSOs and group practices should look for when selecting a teledentistry platform:

  • Virtual consultations: This gives dental groups the ability to use secure live video to provide personalized virtual patient consultations or more in-depth screenings across all locations, among all providers. This can be perceived as an improved convenience, which patients may opt for once the pandemic subsides.
  • Two-way messaging: Quick, convenient, and secure two-way patient messaging can be used to help screen and triage patients before scheduling an office visit. Using a portal for patient triage is much more effective than relying on a phone call.
  • Cloud collaboration: The use of cloud-based exam and patient data sharing can help reduce intraoffice travel. This enables group practices or specialists to communicate with other providers within the group should they be forced to stay in their homes, or choose to work in another location. Their expertise remains available to the entire group. 
  • Teledentistry-powered cameras: TeleDent combines browser-based software that can be used with an intraoral camera or a smartphone to enable essential or nondental team members within your group to send diagnostic images and patient data to remote care providers for evaluation. 
  • Upgraded home diagnostics and monitoring: Patients or affiliated facilities have the option of using either a smartphone or intraoral camera to enable remote clinical evaluation, with images and videos shared through a patient portal. This can be especially important for medically-compromised patients and those who may be at high risk of treatment failure.

Another exciting development is that an increasing number of states are uncuffing dental providers and allowing them to use teledentistry in more ways than just as a lockdown first-aid tactic. At the same time, more and more insurance payers are supporting reimbursement for teledentistry-powered consultations and examinations. In some cases, insurance companies seek teledentistry-based solutions as a service offering to their provider network and members. 


During the pandemic and beyond, DSOs and group practices are uniquely positioned to take advantage of teledentistry by leveraging the organization's operational bandwidth, combined expertise, and clinical capabilities.

DSOs and group practices can also use teledentistry to develop many new revenue opportunities, such as teledentistry-only satellite locations, centralized teledentistry "switchboards" for care location routing, extended hygiene hours, community health outreach, Head Start programs, on-site corporate dentistry services, health-care systems partnerships, managed care services, and many other ways not even considered yet.

James (Jay) Martorelli is the director of sales for MouthWatch LLC, a leader in innovative teledentistry solutions, digital case presentation tools, and intraoral imaging devices. He is responsible for developing key public health and private sector accounts as well as forging strategic alliances with DSOs and group practices throughout the US. Martorelli is a dental industry sales veteran with 25 years of experience with dental manufacturing and media companies. Contact him at [email protected].