Opportunity often rises from crisis or challenging circumstances. Such would be the case for teledentistry and mobile dentistry opportunities for the senior adult population.
COVID-19 no doubt altered the dental care landscape. Even so, as doors closed (literally) other doors opened.
Innovation finds a way. It has and will continue to do so relative to virtual dental care solutions for your aging patients and the expanding older adult demographic outside your practice doors.
Why teledentistry and mobile dentistry makes sense for seniors
Care “gaps” and limitations due to COVID-19
Senior adults have faced ongoing gaps and limitations in their oral health care. Sadly, those limitations have created a general decline in their dental health.
Add the pandemic to the mix and it created a “perfect storm” scenario. Stephen K. Shuman, DDS, MS addressed this bluntly in a pandemic themed webinar on oral health hosted by the Gerontological Society of America (GSA).
“COVID-19 laid bare weaknesses in our elder care system,”. 
According to a related report from the GSA those “weaknesses” are promoting change and innovation. They credit the COVID-19 era for creating “potential for positive long-term changes.” 
The GSA highlights the gaps in common and basic dental care during the pandemic. These routine oral health “habits” (e.g. brushing, flossing, etc) typically prompted or provided by long-term care facility staff members were delayed or missed.
- Care staff energies diverted to provide COVID-19 care
- Care staff experienced heightened “fears” regarding the potential for oral transmission of COVID-19
- Care staff shortages and protocols for reducing viral spread 
General decline in oral health care access
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention research reveals that approximately 35% of seniors in the US have not invested time in a dental visit during a 12 month period. That percentage rises based on age. 
Prioritizing dental care aside, the American Dental Association (ADA) confirms that the top barrier to care access for senior adults is “cost.” 
Barriers to care access vary across the senior adult demographic alongside making oral health a priority and cost challenges.
- Locating a preferred dentist
- Time, travel, and location challenges
- General ambivalence about dentistry and ongoing professional care
The opportunities and solutions that teledentistry and mobile dentistry provide the senior population
Consultations, triage, and assisted hygiene
The remote connection with senior patients gives them less reason to postpone or avoid dental care. Many initial oral health conversations can happen without the patient having to be in-person.
A teledentistry platform or a mobile dentistry setting provides direct access to your dental expertise. Virtual triage enables older patients the comfort and convenience of remaining in their secure, adequate environment until (or unless) an in-person visit is necessary.
Assisted hygiene provides an innovative strategy for senior patients to stay consistent with their preventive dental care. A dedicated teledentistry platform provides you and/or your dental hygienist, or an independent hygienist to provide supervised care virtually.
Some equipped senior care facilities can utilize teledentistry to connect their care staff to you and your team. This provides a beneficial solution for older patients who would otherwise not be capable of transport to an in-office visit.
Mobile access for non-ambulatory patients
Mobile dentistry brings the basic essentials to a senior care facility. This is a practical solution for senior patients who are incapacitated due to physical, emotional, or mental limitations.
- Older patients with dementia can have dental care brought to them without the stress or confusion of being transported.
- Simple extractions, minor restorative treatment, and preventive procedures can be provided for non-ambulatory patients.
Virtual or mobile education and follow-up
A consistent emphasis on oral health is vital for senior adults. The systemic connection between their oral health and general physical health is a specific point of concern.
The limitations of face-to-face communication for those areas of emphasis can be overcome with teledentistry and mobile care delivery. The virtual environment provides seniors with a limitless solution for education and follow-up regarding their oral health.
”Before an elderly patient even sets foot in the practice, dental professionals can use video calls and interactive online oral health education platforms to provide consultation, health history screening, product recommendation and instructions to patients of record remotely, effectively removing physical accessibility and convenient appointment time barriers.” 
Expanding coverage options
More and more insurance providers are embracing the post-pandemic era potential of teledentistry and mobile dentistry services. This has relevance to the senior population due to loss of group coverage post-retirement, the ongoing challenges of chronic disease (including oral health issues), and the potential for teledentistry to meet the requirements of Medicare and Medicaid coverage.
As noted in related content - the majority of carriers are getting on-board with teledentistry. As patients welcome it, providers utilize it, and seniors (in particular) benefit from it - insurance companies are expanding their coverage allowances.
Now is a good time to ride the wave of teledentistry and mobile dentistry adoption. Its application to your senior patients and the growth of their demographic is reason to innovate and explore the related technology solutions.
Check out these resources for more insight into the optimism around teledentistry and its impact on your patient relationships:
Why Teledentistry Could Enhance Care Standards for Senior and Geriatric Patient
Behind the Case: Trained Dental Hygienists Can Help Coordinate Care Using Teledentistry
Looking for a dedicated, secure, senior-care capable teledentistry platform?
Teledentix is an innovative, turn-key teledentistry solution created by Virtual Dental Care. The all-in-one platform will enable you to adapt teledentistry to your patient care and extend your services beyond the walls of your dental practice…and improve your patient care in the process.
- Teledentix provides an easy-to-use video conferencing tool that’s secure, HIPAA compliant, and specific to dentistry.
- Teledentix Basic is a perfect starting point. Begin with a free trial and then transition to a very low monthly fee. You and your patients can join unlimited video conferences including screen-share, file-share, video-share, and real-time chat communications.
LEARN MORE about the Teledentix platform.