No doubt about it: the coronavirus pandemic has forced us to change the way we do a lot of things, whether we like it or not. But necessity truly is the mother of invention, and the global lockdown has required us to get creative when it comes to taking care of ourselves and those we love.
That’s not necessarily a bad thing, though, especially when it comes to the ascendency of telehealth. Thanks to telehealth, patients can maintain a consistent connection with their doctors and healthcare providers. They can often get prescription refills and even undergo remote health testing and monitoring, all from the safety of their own homes.
But that’s not the end of the story. New technologies are emerging every day to allow dentists and optometrists to provide the same stellar virtual care that their mental and physical healthcare counterparts do.
It might seem like the words “telemedicine” and “dentistry” are an oxymoron. After all, by its nature, dentistry is the ultimate hands-on profession. From drilling and scraping to rinsing and spitting, dentistry is a field where oral particulates are flying around like so much confetti, no matter how meticulously sanitary your practice.
And, in the age of coronavirus, that’s precisely what makes it so dangerous for patients and care providers alike. Nevertheless, allowing patients to languish without dental care isn’t an option either, because dental problems can lead to more than just a snaggle smile.
Tooth infections and gum diseases are strongly linked to heart disease, including a significant risk of endocarditis, a severe and potentially fatal infection of the heart muscle. With teledentistry, though, you no longer have to choose between protecting against the virus and protecting your teeth — and your ticker.
Advances in digital dentistry allow you to consult with your dentist in real-time on a virtual platform. Currently, there are apps available to enable doctors to remotely monitor patients’ heart rhythm, blood pressure, and even glucose throughout the day.
Given all that, it’s very possible that you may soon be able to use similar technology to take your own at-home scans of your teeth using your smartphone, allowing your dentist to diagnose mild to moderate dental issues and prescribe basic orthotics, medications, or antibiotics.
It’s not just dentists who are getting into the telehealth game, though. Optometrists, too, are looking to get into remote care to protect their patients during the pandemic and beyond.
The good news is that here, too, the options are vast. The technology, however, is still evolving. For instance, it’s relatively simple to conduct a refraction test and diagnose issues with patients’ eyesight online. This can allow optometrists to create new prescriptions for eyeglasses or contacts, or update the prescription you already have.
For now, of course, teleoptometry can’t replace an in-person eye exam. The technology doesn’t yet exist to allow for a virtual examination of the interior surfaces of the eye. But teleoptometry is a fantastic start. It can allow you to establish a relationship with an eye care provider that will last long after the lockdown ends.
And if you live in a rural area or otherwise have difficulty traveling to receive in-person care, then teleoptometry can be a great adjunct means of care. After all, one of the first signs of an evolving problem is a change in your visual acuity and that something a routine online refraction test with your doctor can help detect in even its early stages and with a strong degree of accuracy if care is taken.
Medicine in the 21st century is all about innovation. And that innovation has become even more imperative in the age of coronavirus. Dentists and optometrists are certainly not lingering behind as healthcare providers conquer the brave new world of telemedicine