Artificial Intelligence and Teledentistry: Breaking Barriers to Dental Care
When it comes to dental care, there have always been areas and populations that are underserved. Now, add in the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, and things only get worse!
One 2020 survey report titled Oral Health in Rural Communities… This text opens a new tab to the survey… states that close to 60% of the United States’ dental health professional shortage areas are in rural areas. This clearly hints that access to dental care is still a farfetched problem.
In order to facilitate total systemic oral health and prevent adverse risks from developing from the beginning, barriers to dental care must be addressed effectively.
Artificial intelligence (AI) and teledentistry are two tech solutions that can greatly help dental providers improve access to care and ameliorate outcomes as a whole.
1. Giving individuals a first look into their oral health status
Oral wellbeing is a key measure of overall health, as good dental care leads to a mitigated risk of stroke, heart disease, diabetes, premature or low-birth-weight babies, chronic oral pain, etc.
This link makes seeking quality oral care all the more important. Factors such as poor access to dental clinics or low availability of options shouldn’t get in the way.
What can providers do to make dental care more accessible, even in the remotest of regions?
It’s simple. Give patients the power to track their initial oral health status by themselves under proper professional guidance. Artificial intelligence and teledentistry are the answer.
New AI technology is emerging at the forefront in the form of “self-monitoring” mobile applications. Additionally, teledentistry services are advancing dental care… This text opens a new tab to an article on teledentistry… in effective, affordable, and highly efficient ways to combat issues related to care access.
An AI-enabled mobile app integrated with a telemedicine platform can assist patients through self-monitoring by generating an oral health rating and sharing it with their oral care provider.
A patient can take pictures of their gums and teeth and upload them into the app, which is then scanned and examined by the app’s AI program for any decay or gum disease. The program then rates that particular patient’s oral health accordingly, which further allows patients to take a first look at their oral health status before taking the next steps.
Details are delivered to both the dental provider and patient, enabling earlier detection of oral disparities, possibly leading to less invasive treatment options.
Overall, this technology has the ability to increase case acceptance and oral health awareness at a macro level. When used alongside telemedicine, such software solutions can greatly improve the patient experience… This text opens a new tab to an article on the patient experience… as a whole.
2. Mitigating the costs of dental care for both patients and providers
Artificial intelligence and telemedicine technologies can easily help care providers get past the iron triangle of healthcare (triple constraints on access, quality, and cost) to deliver effective treatment plans.
In teledentistry, AI-triage consultations and medications can help expand care access to patients residing in rural areas (or in urban settings with serious traffic congestions), at an affordable cost and with similar qualities as an in-person visit to the dentist’s office.
The data gathered through such consultations can easily be stored on the facility’s secured, dedicated cloud hosting server… This text opens a new tab to an article on dedicated server hosting… and accessed remotely at a later time if need be.
Similarly, patients’ electronic health records can also be integrated with the teledentistry platform to extract history and suggest better treatment options.
It’s a win-win situation for both care providers and patients!
With AI, patients don’t have to travel long distances or kill time in waiting areas of a dental facility unless there is an absolute emergency.
Similarly, dental care providers can furnish optimal care right through the comfort of their own homes or other remote locations. This can further reduce feelings of burnout and increase professional satisfaction.
The integration of these two technologies in dentistry allows value-based care coordination to be positioned in a way that allows enhanced collaboration between providers across different healthcare specialties, in turn ensuring greater access to dental care and addressing the overall health of vulnerable patients.
Across the teledentistry spectrum, the adoption of the appropriate AI tech can add value and mitigate added expenses for dentists, their administrative staff, and of course, their patients.
3. Making the seamless shift to patient-centric and value-based care
Regardless of the many reasons behind the lack of access to dental care, those with the least access to dental treatment and preventive services have a greater probability of developing oral diseases.
Bringing high-quality preventive dental care to the populations in need of it the most can make seeking help more convenient, further ameliorating the patient experience and outcomes at a macro scale.
In the last decade alone, there has been an exponential growth in the quantum of health-related digital data generated by the dental care providers themselves and their patients, or rather, populations as a whole.
The availability of large data sets combined with the rapid evolution of AI-based machine learning methods offers promising opportunities for extracting new inferences and actionable insights, which then have a significant potential to improve health outcomes.
AI-enabled systems can make sense of the huge troves of data available to dental care providers and help them utilize it in a better way to enhance outcomes on a global scale. This is especially true since a sophisticated, data-enriched environment allows better clinical decision-making, streamlining the industry’s transition towards a value-based, patient-centric care delivery model.
Also, such initiatives are ideal platforms to provide better access to preventive care, closer integration of infrastructure, increased patient education, and risk stratification improvements to target interventions.
All in all, addressing barriers of access to care lie within two realms: the overwhelming shortage of dental providers across the nation and the ability to access oral health care associated with socioeconomic factors.
Artificial intelligence and teledentistry are two state-of-the-art tech innovations that can address both these problems head on!
Meet the Author
Dr. Chuck Le is the founder of 7 Day Dental… This text opens a new tab to the 7 Day Dental website… and is a recognized leader in the field of dentistry.
For several years, Dr. Le has dedicated his personal time and resources to working with organizations and causes that help the less fortunate, as well as youth development and well-being, both internationally and domestically.
His philanthropy has included his contribution to the disaster relief efforts after the 2004 tsunami in Thailand and the restoration efforts after major conflagrations in Vietnam.