This paper reports on a field trial, supported by Google, that used teledentistry to deliver specialist consultation to children in Victoria and pave the way for the application of teledentistry for paediatric patients.
Many rural, remote and outer suburban areas receive inadequate oral health care services. This is due to workforce shortages, particularly specialist services, and often results in poor oral health outcomes. Teledentistry allows local service providers to seek advice from specialists without the patient having to leave the local practice.
This publication reports on a field trial, supported by Google, that used teledentistry to deliver specialist consultation to children in Victoria and pave the way for the application of teledentistry for paediatric patients. Improving the oral health of children and adolescents is a priority area in Australia’s Oral Health Plan. Teledentistry can deliver affordable and timely oral health care to patients thereby addressing the chronic dental workforce shortage and improving health outcomes.
Three Victorian general dental practitioners in Rosebud, Shepparton, and Geelong were trained to use teledentistry to conduct consultations between their clinics and the Royal Children’s Hospital in Melbourne. Throughout the trial 43 patients aged from 2 to 18 were involved in teledentistry consultations with cleft lip and palate specialists and orthodontists.
Parents of patients responded positively to the study with the vast majority seeing it as a positive experience and a beneficial way to obtain dental services. Many were impressed by the ability of the local dentist and specialist to conduct the consultation obviating the need for travel.
The success of the trial provides early evidence on how teledentistry is transforming access to specialist care within the community and improving oral health outcomes. Teledentistry delivers tangible results including improved access to services in rural and regional Australia and reduced travel for patients and their families. Practitioners, patients and their parents found that teledentistry is an appropriate substitute to face-to-face consultations.