Why Teledentistry Could Enhance Care Standards for Senior and Geriatric Patient

11.13.2020
| 8 min read

Demographic growth can be a cause for innovation. And innovative solutions like teledentistry can enhance care standards for the growing population of senior and geriatric patients.

Statistics indicate that 8.5 percent of people worldwide (617 million) are 65 years of age or older. Those increasing numbers also indicate a potential increase in chronic health conditions - including oral health.

Common oral health issues for senior adults include:

  • Periodontal (gum) disease
  • Cavities
  • Oral lesions
  • Dry mouth (Xerostomia)

Mouth pain and the potential for tooth loss can increase when the growing senior population lacks access to quality dental care.

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Preventive care access is essential for senior and geriatric dental patients

Each of the common oral health conditions listed above can have a systemic impact on your senior adult patients. This increases the need for innovative solutions to provide preventive care from deadly or debilitating health conditions like the following.

Heart disease

As a dental professional you’re aware of that coronary artery disease and heart disease has strong traceability to periodontal (gum) disease. Senior patients who have good oral hygiene and routine dental care can reduce their risk of heart attacks, stroke, and other serious health conditions.

Diabetes

The body’s insulin use is affected by gum disease. High blood sugar levels can also promote gum infections. Preventive dental care can provide advance diagnosis and help reduce the risk associated with gum disease.

Dry mouth

A lack of saliva can cause other health issues. It’s known that saliva protects your patient’s teeth and helps prevent infection, bacterial growth, and viruses.

These are merely a few of the oral health conditions that you’re aware can impact your senior patient’s health.

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On the verge of a senior care “tipping point”

Virtual visits in the overall telehealth/telemedicine sector are on the rise - especially among senior adults. The COVID-19 pandemic and increased comfort with digital technology are driving the trend for this demographic.

Even so, some remain hesitant though the accessible benefits of telemedicine are evident.

” In 2019, most older adults expressed at least one serious concern about trying a telemedicine visit. But by the middle of 2020, the percentage with such concerns had eased, especially among those who had experienced a virtual visit between March and June of this year.

Yet not all older adults see virtual care as an adequate substitute for in-person care, even in a pandemic, the National Poll on Healthy Aging findings show.”

Perceived technology barriers and a personal preference for in-person visits are notably among the top reasons seniors avoid virtual care solutions. But telehealth opportunities aside, there are still common factors that keep senior and geriatric patients from seeking dental care in general.

  • Time investment
  • Cost perceptions
  • Inconveniences such as finding a dentist and related location access
  • Lack of perceived need for dentistry

Barriers being what they are, emerging technology are helping to eliminate the perception around time, cost, and access to dental care providers.

Enhanced care for senior and geriatric patients with teledentistry

Like telemedicine, teledentistry provides safe and innovative solutions for senior patients. And some of these opportunities reduce the hands-on technology issues that seniors struggle with.

Responsible-party access

Adult children and other designated persons overseeing a senior patient’s care can have remote, direct access to health information and related protocols.

Teledentistry portals provide interface for:

  • eSignatures on treatment plans and other signature required documentation
  • Tracking treatment and follow-up progress through a designated “help” portal
  • Asking questions and engaging in consultations via video, chat, text, or email platforms
  • Making payments and viewing financial and insurance related information

Senior care facility portability

Care facilities can be equipped with video capabilities and necessary equipment. For example, an onsite intra-oral camera can be used for a diagnostic check-up without you (as a dental professional) being on site or requiring patient transport to your office.

Trained caretakers can view inside the patient’s mouth with the intra-oral camera. Images can be delivered in real-time via a teledentistry portal or shared for later viewing.

A senior patient’s oral health condition such as an infection or a broken crown, bridge, filling, or tooth could be quickly diagnosed. Treatment could be scheduled in-office or via a remote provider on-site.

On-site dental care benefit

Virtual and mobile capabilities provided by teledentistry are a benefit to senior care facilities too. A care center can invest in the baseline technology and/or connect with a dental care provider.

On-site teledentistry capability gives a senior care facility an additional promotional benefit for resident dental care. Residents and their families can feel confident that their loved one’s overall health care is easily accessible.

A care facility’s connection with you as a dental care provider also gives you an additional opportunity for patient production. Plus you’re helping bring essential oral health care to the growing senior population.

Available teledentistry technology to care for senior and geriatric dental patients

If you’re considering the use of teledentistry to provide dentistry to senior patients or using on-site, mobile or portable dentistry technology you’ll find some valuable insight in the following resource:

An Overview and Guide to Mobile Dentistry

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 (including senior patients) and extend your services beyond the walls of your dental practice.

  • 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.

Contact us about Teledentix and discover how it streamlines the interaction between you and your patient around their dental care in the fixed dental practice…and as an option for senior and geriatric dental patients.

Helpful Resources

Mobile Dental Delivery Explained

03.02.2021 | 1 min read

Direct Access Dental Hygiene is Creating a New Day for Hygienists and Filling the Care Gap

03.02.2021 | 8 min read

Five Must-Have Features for Mobile and Teledentistry Software Success

02.23.2021 | 6 min read