Artificial Intelligence and Teledentistry: Breaking Barriers to Dental Care
When it comes to oral care, there have always been a number of areas and communities in the United States that don’t get the access to care that they deserve. Now, add in the pandemic to this equation. Things only got worse!
One survey report published last year under the title ‘Oral Health in Rural Communities’ states that nearly 60% of America’s dental health professional shortage areas are in the rural landscapes of the country.
This clearly points out that access to dental care is still a challenge there.
In order to prevent adverse risks from developing right at the beginning of the disease life cycle and to promote systemic oral healthcare, the underlying barriers must be addressed in an effective manner first.
Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Teledentistry are two innovations that can greatly help oral care providers in ameliorating outcomes and improving access to care as a whole. To know how, read on.
1) Giving Individuals a First Look into their Oral Health Status
Oral wellbeing is one of the key measures of how healthy a person is. Research continues to show the impact of oral health on the risk of heart disease, stroke, diabetes, chronic oral pain, etc. Therefore, seeking good quality oral care continues to be critical to good overall health.
Factors such as poor access to dental care providers or having to travel long distances just to be able to see one should definitely not be getting in the way of seeking dental care. So then, what measures can oral health professionals implement to improve accessibility in remote regions?
It’s pretty straightforward: give patients the ability to track their initial oral health status by themselves, under proper guidance of course.
Artificial Intelligence and teledentistry can be of great help here.
Progressive AI-based solutions have surfaced on the healthcare front in the form of ‘self-monitoring’ mobile applications. Also, telehealth integration is advancing oral care in affordable, effective and highly efficient ways to overcome problems related to care access.
An AI-enabled mobile app that embeds telemedicine can assist patients at a distance through self-monitoring by creating what’s called an ‘oral health rating’ which can then be shared with the concerned oral care provider.
A patient can, for instance, take pictures of their gums or teeth, and upload those directly on the app. These images are then scanned and examined by the app’s AI program for gum disease or any form of dental decay. The AI program furnishes ratings of that particular patient’s oral health accordingly, further allowing patients to take a first look at their overall oral health.
Such integrated software solutions can also enable early detection of oral disparities in patients, so that dentists can start treating such individuals right away with less invasive methods.
These two tech solutions, when combined, give dental care providers the ability to increase both case acceptance and oral health awareness at the highest level. Also, such software solutions can greatly improve patient experience and communication by manifolds.
2) Mitigating the Costs of Care for Providers and Patients alike
Telemedicine and AI can aid oral care providers get past the iron triangle of healthcare (triple constraints on Quality, Access and Cost) and deliver effective treatment plans in a way that appeals to their patients and makes the care delivery experience a seamless one for them.
For example, when used in conjunction with a teledentistry platform, AI-triage consultations and medications can help expand providers’ access to patients residing in rural areas, that too at an affordable cost and with quality similar to that of an in-person visit to the dentist’s office.
The data accumulated through such virtual consultations can easily be stored on the facility’s cloud server and accessed remotely at a later time by authorized individuals. Similarly, patients’ electronic health records (EHR) can also be integrated with the teledentistry platform to check their medical history and suggest better treatment options. This boosts data interoperability and speeds up the entire care delivery process.
This results in a win-win situation for both patients as well as their oral care providers!
Patients don’t have to kill time in waiting areas of a dental facility or travel long distances unless there is an emergency.
On the other hand, oral care providers can furnish topnotch care experiences right from the comfort of their own homes or from a remote location of their choice. This can not only reduce feelings of burnout among them, but also increase professional satisfaction.
Therefore, it wouldn’t be wrong to say that the adoption of AI-enabled tech and telehealth in dentistry can considerably mitigate added expenses for dentists and patients alike.
3) Helping Make the Shift to Value-Based Care a Seamless One
As dental care providers, we all know that those with the least access to dental treatment and preventive services have a greater likelihood of developing oral diseases such as tooth decay, gum disease and even oral cancer in the worst cases.
Bringing high-quality preventive oral care to the populations in need of it can make seeking help more convenient for patients. This further enhances patient experience and improves outcomes at a macro scale. Value-based care must integrate oral health to improve patients’ total health.
AI-enabled systems can make sense of the vast troves of data available for dental care providers and help them harness it in a better way to enhance outcomes among patient populations exhibiting similar symptoms.
This is especially true since a sophisticated, data-enriched environment allows better clinical decision-making, streamlining the industry’s transition toward a value-based and patient-centric model of care delivery.
Also, such initiatives act as gateways for care providers to furnish better access to preventive care, enable closer integration of infrastructure, enhance patient education and enable risk stratification improvements to target interventions.
What the Future Holds
All in all, addressing barriers of access to care primarily lies within two realms: patients’ ability to access oral health care associated with socioeconomic factors, and the persisting shortage of dental care providers across the nation.Artificial intelligence and teledentistry definitely hold the potential to help the oral health fraternity address both these challenges heads on!