Most folks know that good oral health is needed to prevent oral diseases- which can be progressive, cumulative, and more complex over time. If left untreated, tooth decay leads to needless pain and suffering; difficulty in speaking, chewing, and swallowing; missed school days; increased cost of care. There’s also good evidence that poor oral hygiene and health increases the risk of other systemic health problems like diabetes, heart disease, and adverse pregnancy outcomes.
One of Arizona’s biggest challenges is the lack of access to oral health care in the rural and frontier areas of the state. Our Oral Health shop has a HRSA grant that helps us to focus on developing teledentistry… and we’ve been one of the few states piloting this. There’s a report posted on our website describing the pilot. We have 4 enhanced dental team practice models using teledentistry and/or affiliate practice dental hygienists. They include: Northern Arizona Council of Governments Head Start, a pediatric dentist and summer camps for preschool children; a partnership with two IHS dental service units – one in 6 elementary schools for children on the Hopi Reservation and the second in Sells; a pediatric dentist opening a satellite office in a rural area 200 miles from his practice.
There are lots of benefits to maximizing the use of teledentistry in the rural parts of the state- but the biggest are improved access, cost efficiency, and better patient satisfaction.