Since many dental offices are closed or are only open to emergencies during COVID, teledental, virtual dental visits or teledentistry consults have become a way to connect patients with advice and coordinate care for dental care needs. For dental hygienists especially affected by the closures of elective services, it can be stressful and uncertain knowing that our patients might still need us for help.
As a hygienist, I feel very fortunate to be able to participate in teledental consults with Virtudent Connect and can help patients in this way. The calls that we receive can be the difference between going to an emergency dentist or even an emergency room at the hospital, and reassurance and guidance we can provide for the patient to do at home and reduce their own exposure risks as much as can be avoided. Many of the patients call with anxieties from clenching and grinding, which has increased from the stress we are all experiencing now. Others are worried about their kids and want to make sure that as their adult teeth come in they are erupting normally. Some have questions we can answer that assure them what they are experiencing is normal and safe to wait to be seen until offices reopen. As much as these cases can avoid leaving stay at home orders and reduce risk, we can help contribute to the larger reduction in transmission of the coronavirus.
Other calls are from patients that are experiencing true emergencies. Some have infected teeth keeping them up at night, or swelling enough that we can see even on a Zoom meeting. Getting started on a course of antibiotics for these cases can be crucial, and keeps what is already an emergency from becoming an even more serious or even life threatening emergency. We work hard to find emergency dental offices open near these patients so they can be seen as soon as possible, often the same or next day. Fingers crossed, we have been able to find an office open for every patient so far – although it has been a challenge for some!
These consults have meant that I am still able to be a part of patient triage and care coordination, and still be a part of a meaningful teledentistry service to our patients. We spend time needed to answer all questions on the calls, and follow-up if needed as well. Knowing that during stressful times we are still available for our patients is rewarding and connects us to being a part of a larger solution to the current crisis.