Over one week during this pandemic, physicians turned to tele-medicine to keep their practices going. By contrast, dental practices just shut down.

Is there a viable approach to tele-dentistry when in fact, the modus operandi of dental care is both visual and tactile? For example, how would a hygienist conduct the procedure “bleeding on probing” over Face Time or the phone? And how would a dentist test the integrity of a tooth surface by simply looking on a computer screen? After all, these procedures require the patient sitting in the dental chair.

The obvious conclusion is that any change to tele-dentistry will be hard for the dental profession.

Unless it changes its ways.

And, from the new convenience of seeing the doctor, change it must. When the family doctor or the specialist are phoning their patients to see how they are doing and to listen for signs and symptoms of trouble or recovery, it seems likely the patients will begin asking “why do I have to sit in the dentist’s waiting room? Can’t we do this dental checkup remotely?”

The reality is the dental professions commonly know who is high risk or low risk for poor oral health simply by asking a few questions over the phone:

  • are you diabetic, do you have respiratory problems, are you experiencing confusion?
  • are you taking more than 3 prescription drugs per day?
  • do your gums commonly bleed when you brush and floss?
  • do your gums recede, are they inflamed?

A “yes” to at least 2 of these questions, should lead to further consultation about preventing the cause of poor oral health — oral dysbiosis.