The American Teledentistry Association applauds Governor Baker for showing support for the benefits of telemedicine as patients and healthcare providers grapple with the COVID-19 pandemic. As a dentist who sees hundreds of patients per year, this makes perfect sense. Several years ago, I founded the American Teledentistry Association, a non-profit organization whose mission is to increase access to dental care through advocacy for and the implementation of innovative teledentistry guidelines and solutions.
My main goal was to provide access to care to patients in rural or underserved areas both here in Massachusetts and around the country. I never imagined we’d be faced with a global healthcare challenge like COVID-19.
Why have dentists been slow to adopt teledentistry in Massachusetts? Unfortunately, prior to the pandemic, many dentists did not see the benefits of teledentistry and how it can be synergistic with their bricks and mortar practices.
Will they see the benefits now?
The truth is that any tool that can increase access to much needed dental care should be seen as a welcome innovation and not a threat.
It is estimated that 37 million people in America have no dental insurance coverage which has resulted in approximately 42% of the population not routinely seeing a dentist. Access to dental care is a real crisis. Our current state of emergency has only exacerbated the problem.
Now is the time for all dental health professionals in the Commonwealth to join our medical colleagues and public health officials in containing the COVID-19 pandemic. With simple tools like smartphones and laptop webcams, dentists can see the most vulnerable dental patients safely in their homes thereby eliminating their risk of infection.
It is dentistry’s ethical and professional obligation to make sure that in this time of great anxiety, the people of Massachusetts can rest assured that our dental leadership is considering every means at its disposal to provide dental care to those in need without exposing them to unnecessary risks and expense.