Teledentistry can improve global dental access for millions, experts say

A team of experts have found that teledentistry has ‘incredible potential’ to provide regular access to dental care around the world, revolutionising the way people receive oral healthcare. 

The global task force of academic experts, put together by the Oral Health Foundation and Unilever, found a number of benefits to teledentistry.

These include the potential to remove or reduce many of the major barriers associated with access to oral healthcare, specifically in developing and emerging countries.

They also found that it was useful where the access to dental professionals is limited or not evenly spread over a country or region. In addition, it’s a cost-saving measure for the patient and the dental clinic.

It is also an effective method for education, dental referrals, early detection of disease, treatment planning and compliance and treatment viability.

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The Oral Health Foundation has said that 2.4 billion people across the world do not have the means to access dental care.

The experts found a number of barriers to dental access. For example, a low number of qualified dentists in developing nations is a ‘substantial problem’.

In addition, most dentists are located in larger cities. As a result, rural and geographically-isolated patients are left without care, the experts said.

The task force found there were ‘significant opportunities’ for evidence-based oral health advice delivered by teledentistry models.

As a result, this would improve access to trained personnel either in health centres or at home. They could provide preventative messages, early intervention procedures and oral health recording, and select patients for urgent in-person treatment.

It would also address oral health inequalities and reduce financial constraints, the experts found.

‘Incredible potential’

The Oral Health Foundation has stated that there is an urgent need to expand access to dentistry. In addition, teledentistry has an important role to play in improving access to dental care.

Dr Nigel Carter OBE, chief executive of the Oral Health Foundation, said: ‘There is a critical need to bridge the gap between the underserved population and dental care professionals.

‘Despite the links between oral health and general health being widely recognised, oral diseases remain far too common. A preventive approach to oral health remains the best option, and dental professionals remain the best people to deliver specific educational messages.

‘Frustratingly, access to dental services around the world remains unbalanced. Many people across rural and remote areas, from low socioeconomic groups and those with physical and mental disabilities, all have reduced opportunities to access dental care.

‘Teledentistry may be in its infancy but clearly has incredible potential to increase dental access for hard-to-reach groups. Teledentistry can maximise the resources of a limited workforce and provide important educational and diagnostic services at a lower cost.’

Revolutionising oral health

Following the problems with access to dental services, Pepsodent have launched a teledentistry initiative across Indonesia and Vietnam.

The project aims to make dental access more inclusive, available and affordably and, by doing so, reduce oral disease amongst the most vulnerable.

Kartik Chandrasekhar, category head for oral care at Unilever, says: ‘At Pepsodent, our mission is simple – to improve lives by making quality oral healthcare accessible to everyone.

‘We know that access to oral healthcare can be a challenge for many, which is why we’re excited about our teledentistry initiative. Through this program, we’ve already reached over 100 million consumers in Indonesia and Vietnam, breaking down barriers to access and preventing oral disease.

‘Teledentistry has the potential to revolutionise the way people receive oral healthcare. With the support of the Oral Health Foundation and Unilever, we’re committed to scaling this initiative and bringing affordable oral care to underserved populations all over the world.

‘That’s why we’re passionate about partnering with dental associations around the globe to make this a reality.’

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