This option is designed to keep you out of the emergency room

What do you do if you have a dental emergency, but your dentist isn’t available? Teledentistry tries to fill that gap for you.

Teledentistry is designed to help provide patients with oral care virtually.

Dr. Stephanie Steckel, of Smyrna, said the way it works is a patient can call 888-641-5505 or visit TheTeledentists.com. This popular company was awarded the “20 Most Disruptive Healthcare Solutions Providers 2018” by Insights Care.

Patients can use their smart phone or laptop to have a teleconference. They’ll also need to provide their medical history and an informed consent form, Steckel said.

“The patient in need calls to schedule a virtual visit. The dentist offers care and guidance during this visit, and can prescribe medications and schedule follow-up care if needed,” she said.

“The goal is to get you, the patient, out of the emergency situation, into an appropriate dental home, and save you time and money.”

Teledentistry is intended to reduce the number of patients who visit the emergency room.

“The 2 million-plus dental emergency visits per year strain our health care system, and sadly do not provide a definitive answer to the problem,” Dr. Steckel said. “This amounts to over $2 billion spent each year being in the wrong place.”

The Smyrna doctor has worked as a dentist in the state for over 30 years. She’s been working as a virtual consultant for nearly two months with TheTeledentists.com.

Steckel said she’s occasionally run into hiccups with teledentistry.

“Electronic connections can be lost temporarily, or can be slow, which can interrupt the teledentistry appointment,” she said.

Delaware State Dental Society president Cathy Harris issued a statement earlier this month, addressing the plan for helping its members navigate through COVID-19.

Until Delaware reaches Phase 1 of its COVID-19 recovery plan (tentatively June 1), the society has asked its dentists to do the following:

Provide treatment of previously-diagnosed oral conditions where, in the clinician’s opinion, harm would occur to the patient if left untreated Defer all elective and preventive services, including dental cleanings Only treat 30-40% of normal patient volume

Teledentistry is a good option “for those people who do not have a dentist of record, those away from home, or those who want a second opinion,” Steckel said.

“Teledentistry fills a gap (no pun intended) to save patients time, ease acute concerns, help you if you’re away from home, and save you a visit to the emergency room,” she added.

“Until then, I recommend you brush and floss and rinse with warm water to keep your mouth and teeth clean.”