Could lockdown pave the way for virtual dentistry?
During the Coronavirus crisis, dentists all over the UK have been providing online services for patients. Now, with lockdown restrictions easing, some dentists believe that virtual dentistry could be here to stay.
While practices have been closed to patients, dental professionals have been providing video consultations, telephone advice and online prescriptions instead of face-to-face appointments. While its not possible to treat every patient virtually, there are benefits to offering online advice and communicating with patients who may find it difficult to get out and about.
Dr Andrew Culbard, a cosmetic dentist from Glasgow, believes that virtual dentistry may be a silver lining. Online consultations minimise risk due to a lack of close contact and exposure to potential sources of infection, they enable dentists to offer tailored advice without patients having to travel, and they eliminate the need to use valuable appointment time for minor ailments. There will always be a demand for face-to-face appointments, as many dental issues cannot be resolved over the telephone, but it is beneficial for dentists to be aware of the advantages of offering new ways for patients to get in touch and speak to their dentist.
Despite the positive aspects of virtual consultations, there are genuine fears across the UK that practices will struggle to survive in the coming months and years. With limited income over the past few months and patient numbers likely to be restricted for a long time, many are facing an uncertain future. A poll involving private practice owners in Scotland recently revealed that over 50% of bosses are fearful that they won’t be able to open again.
Dr Culbard believes that the future will be difficult for dentists, but he is also optimistic that the profession will be bolstered and strengthened by the experience and by innovations that have changed the way dentists work, including virtual appointments.