The use of telehealth has increased steadily over the last few years and with many Americans confined to their homes because of the novel coronavirus outbreak, telehealth visits have surged amid the coronavirus pandemic.1 More states are deploying telehealth measures to ensure people can receive care without putting themselves or healthcare providers at risk.2
As the nation grapples with what changes will need to be implemented in the future to prevent outbreaks like this one, telehealth, teledentistry and telemedicine could continue to play a larger role in helping people receive the healthcare they need. Even though telehealth, telemedicine and teledentistry are similar there are key differences.
What is telehealth?
Telehealth is an umbrella term that incorporates using technology like video chat, live streaming, social media and secure cloud technology to provide a comprehensive set of health-related services.3 Telehealth is broader in scope than telemedicine, which is focused on consultations with physicians and treatment procedures. Telehealth can include appointments for things like mental health and counseling, nutrition counseling and much more that isn’t covered by telemedicine. Telehealth can also include teledentistry.4
What is teledentistry?
Teledentistry refers to the use of technology to deliver a variety of dental services without the patient and dentist being in the same location.5 Teledentistry is like telemedicine because it is focused on providing distance care and not just general information, however, teledentistry refers specifically to dental care.
When using teledentistry, a dentist may use video, audio and streaming technology to assess a patient’s condition, create a treatment plant, read digital X-rays and perform consultations for specialized procedures. Even though actual procedures like cleanings, fillings and oral surgeries still need to be done in person, diagnostic work and patient monitoring can be done through teledentistry, which can make dental care more accessible to a wider range of people.
How telehealth and teledentistry are different
Everything from diet and nutrition to questions about prescription interaction to suggestions for managing stress and personal wellness all fall under the umbrella of telehealth. Telehealth incorporates components from medicine, dentistry, vision care and lifestyle choices into one so that patients have a central system of organization for getting online or virtual advice and care.
Teledentistry is solely focused on a patient’s dental health and care. A dentist can give you an exam, digitally read and store your X-rays, consult with a specialist in real time and do many other things using technology so that people can learn about and practice good oral hygiene as well as get the care and information they need to keep their teeth healthy.
Does insurance cover teledentistry?
Telemedicine is often covered by insurance, and many insurance companies are now covering teledentistry too. Every insurance plan is different but in most cases, teledentistry appointments are treated the same as in-person dental appointments. That means if your dental insurance usually covers the cost of your office visits, then your insurance may cover teledentistry.
Medicare Part B (Medical Insurance) covers certain telehealth services. Some healthcare providers are reducing or waiving the amount you pay for telehealth visits.6 If you have private health or dental insurance, you should check to see what your insurer covers.
Links to external sites are provided for your convenience in locating related information and services. Guardian, its subsidiaries, agents and employees expressly disclaim any responsibility for and do not maintain, control, recommend, or endorse third-party sites, organizations, products, or services and make no representation as to the completeness, suitability, or quality thereof.
Brought to you by The Guardian Life Insurance Company of America (Guardian), New York, NY. Material discussed is meant for general illustration and/or informational purposes only and it is not to be construed as tax, legal, investment or medical advice. It is not dental care advice and should not be substituted for regular consultation with your dentist. If you have any concerns about your dental health, please contact your dentist's office.