The healthcare sector has changed dramatically during the COVID-19 pandemic, and many of those changes seem to be here to stay. One of the most notable changes for dentists is the increased use of teledentistry.
A study in Colombia researched the impact of COVID-19 on dentists’ knowledge and attitudes toward teledentistry. The article, by S.P. Plaza-Ruíz et al., was published in July 2021 in the print edition of the Journal for Dental Research.
The survey respondents were relatively unfamiliar with teledentistry before COVID-19 — 25% had knowledge of it and just 12% had used it.
However, the pandemic changed those numbers drastically.
How did COVID-19 impact dentists’ feelings towards and use of teledentistry?
- Knowledge of teledentistry increased by 62% to a total of 88%.
- Practice of teledentistry increased by 42% to a total of 54%.
- 93% of respondents said that virtual care could be useful in their practice.
- 59% would consider using it after COVID-19.
- 88% of dentists did not charge extra for virtual services.
Plaza-Ruíz et al. noted some interesting differences when it came to the increase of awareness and practice of teledentistry. For one, women increased both familiarity and use more than men. Also, younger dentists aged 22-35 increased their knowledge of virtual care more than dentists 60 years and older.
The authors pointed out that knowledge of teledentistry before COVID-19 was relatively low in Colombia compared to in other locations. Studies performed in Kanpur (India) and Rwanda found that 96% and 88% of postgraduates, respectively, are familiar with virtual care in dentistry.
That said, the study still highlights how COVID-19 made virtual care much more common and familiar to both providers and the general public. Although the changes may have been more drastic in Colombia, the increased familiarity and use of teledentistry are likely applicable around the world.
What are the barriers to teledentistry use?
The study mentions three barriers in particular: insufficient financial reimbursement, low technical skills in older dentists and inequalities in remote regions.
“Although some barriers to the use of teledentistry continue, the pandemic brought with it a new scenario for dental practice, which must be implemented through training for professionals to increase its use,” write the authors.
There were 5,370 respondents to the survey. Of those, 3878 were women, and the mean age of the respondents was 45 years old.
You can read the study, “Impact of COVID-19 on the Knowledge and Attitudes of Dentists toward Teledentistry,” in the Journal for Dental Research. To learn about teledentistry in New York, read our blog on a recent ADA teledentistry policy update.