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LONDON, UK: The British Orthodontic Society (BOS) has recently released guidance on teledentistry and remote interactions in orthodontic care. By offering information on current regulatory frameworks and access to resources, as well as highlighting best operational practices, the guidance is planned to help orthodontic providers and their teams gain a deeper understanding of the scope of teledentistry services and technologies for orthodontic care.
Teledentistry has recently seen a dramatic increase in demand and is slowly altering patient expectations of care. Deemed a valid substitute for initial in-patient consultations, it has been widely accepted by both dentists and patients, resulting in numerous dental clinics having to modify their services to include teledentistry services.
According to the guidance, dental professionals can greatly benefit from teledentistry. For one, it has the potential to enhance patient care and help achieve desired treatment outcomes. When integrated into orthodontic care, teledentistry can also offer improved accessibility and patient satisfaction. Most importantly, it decreases the number of physical appointments, culminating in reduced environmental impact and less face-to-face contact, a benefit that has gained increased value during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Teledentistry in orthodontics: Code of practice
According to the BOS, clinicians should be made aware of some core principles when conducting a remote orthodontic consultation. For example, the guidance indicates that, following the General Dental Council’s scope of practice guidance, it is vital that all diagnostic and prescriptive decisions are made by a registered treating orthodontist or a dentist who has proper training and skills and is directly involved in the monitoring of orthodontic care.
It also points out certain patient rights. Namely, it explains that patients who are undergoing treatment should receive the contact information of the responsible clinician and be able to make direct contact or arrange face-to-face appointments when required. In the case of clear aligner treatment, patients should also be informed not only about the benefits but also about the limitations of such treatment and made aware that they are going to receive a medical procedure involving a medical device.
Do-it-yourself orthodontics still cause of concern
The BOS stated that it continues to have concerns regarding the suitable examination, diagnosis and consent process for do-it-yourself orthodontics. It has also voiced concerns about ongoing supervision and the nature of the patient–clinician relationship.
Commenting on the matter, BOS Director of External Relations Dr Anjli Patel said in a press release: “If used responsibly, digital technologies and associated tools or applications have potential to improve professional care and enhance both patient outcomes and convenience, adding a potentially convenient way for clinicians to engage with current or prospective patients.”
Dr Patel continued by cautioning that if used incorrectly remote orthodontics could lead to undesirable consequences: “However, it should never be used to alter clinical practice in such a way that patient safety, valid consent or treatment planning and outcomes are compromised.”
In line with Dr Patel’s warning, the guidance highlights the need for laws, regulations and professional practices to be adapted in order to successfully incorporate teledentistry and ensure quality care.
More information on the guidance can be found here.