Teledentistry has been shown to be of benefit in several areas of clinical practice including, improving access to care, and improving clinical support to dentists of different specialties. In this systematic review published in the Journal of the American Medical Informatics Association aimed to “survey existing information on the use of telediagnosis in oral medicine.”1
There are two types of interactions that can be utilized by teledentistry, synchronous and asynchronous. Asynchronous teledentistry is described as gathering and storing information to be evaluated later, while synchronous teledentistry is interaction in real time (e.g., videoconference). In this systematic review asynchronous teledentistry was the primary method used in the studies included. Reportedly, asynchronous teledentistry is more convenient for the professionals as they do not have to be available in real time to collaborate.
Upon searching the literature, the authors identified 173 studies that fit the search criteria. After further review, 11 studies were included in the systematic review. Most were eliminated due to “non-original articles,” and “not on oral lesions.”
Teledentistry dates to 1994, with the first study conducted by the American Armed Forces. Since then, the number of studies has continually increased with most of the studies seemingly being done in the United States and very few in developing countries where teledentistry could be of great benefit.
According to the results from this systematic review, multiple professionals in varying areas of healthcare were utilized as case examiners. This included students and dental professionals, specialists and non-specialists, medical doctors, nurses, and nutritionists. This initiative to train multiple health care professionals to recognize oral lesions has been recommended by the World Health Organization to fight oral cancer through early detection.
The ever-improving cameras on smartphones and other technology has improved the quality of images to better assess the oral lesions. Additionally, having more than one professional involved in the diagnostic process may increase the accuracy of oral lesion diagnosis.
In general patients are reporting great satisfaction regarding the use of teledentistry. Clinical dentists are also very satisfied with the use of teledentistry as it allows them to collaborate with specialists and provide better treatment and guidance for patients. One study included in the review indicated teledentistry could reduce health costs as well (Blomstrand et al).
Limitations identified by the authors was the heterogenicity of the methods in the studies included in this systematic review. As well as the lack of robust evidence leaving the need for further studies.
The authors conclude by stating, “Teledentistry can assist patients who need specialized diagnosis in dentistry and consultations with specialists in this area. So far, the studies show satisfactory agreement between presential and remote diagnosis using teledentistry, showing good acceptance by patients and professionals. However, studies with a more rigorous experimental design should be conducted in order to obtain results that can be generalized.”
- Flores APDC, Lazaro SA, Molina-Bastos CG, Guattini VLO, Umpierre RN, Gonçalves MR, arrard VC. Teledentistry in the diagnosis of oral lesions: A systematic review of the literature. J Am Med Inform Assoc. 2020 Jul 1;27(7):1166-1172. doi: 10.1093/jamia/ocaa069. PMID: 32568392; PMCID: PMC7647318.