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Yes, Teledentistry Is Real — And it Means More Access to Care


Published Jun 16, 2022 • by Dr. Dean Fry, Chief Dental Officer at Humana

The demand for virtual care has increased significantly during the COVID-19 pandemic, forever changing the health care delivery landscape. More than 75% of employers accelerated their telehealth and virtual care investments during the pandemic, and research from McKinsey and Co. has found that telehealth usage has now stabilized at 38 times that of 2019 levels.

This acceleration has paved the way for numerous innovations, including teledentistry, and has changed the way we think about dental care.

Oftentimes oral health is mistakenly viewed as an extra or a “nice to have” when it can have a large impact on an employer’s health care costs and employee productivity:

  • On average, over 34 million school hours are lost each year because of unplanned (emergency) dental care.
  • 164 million working hours are lost each year in the United States due to untreated oral disease.
  • CDC estimates companies lose $45 billion in productivity annually due to employee dental emergencies.

There is a clear opportunity for employers to step in when it comes to oral care. Not only are employees with employer-provided coverage more likely to use telehealth, companies have an opportunity to offer new benefits via teledentistry to attract and retain employees, close the gap on lost productivity, and minimize emergency visits.

How does teledentistry work? Patients or families can see a dentist immediately online without traveling to an appointment or missing work or school. Dentists use the virtual visits most often to prescribe antibiotics or over-the-counter pain meds, facilitate referrals, conduct visual exams, provide patients with oral hygiene tips and help prioritize care in emergency situations.

Just as telehealth offers the ability for people to take a more active role in their overall health care by lowering barriers to care, so does teledentistry. Teledentistry helps facilitate the delivery of dental care by connecting patients directly to a dentist or orthodontist.

For example, Humana’s Teledentix software allows patients to connect with dentists virtually. Humana believes this type of care helps to remove barriers for members, offering an improved experience.

Teledentix improves member experience in three key ways:

  • Decreased emergency room utilization: Dental pain is among the top three reasons for avoidable emergency room visits. With 24/7 on-demand access, members have a more cost-effective and convenient alternative to seeking emergency care.
  • Improved access to care: 20% of Americans live in rural areas with limited access to dental providers. Teledentistry removes another barrier to care by providing members with access to a dentist anytime, anywhere.
  • Lower member out-of-pocket cost: Trips to a dental office for pain can cost $90-$200 per visit, and a trip to the emergency room can cost $400-$1500 per visit. With teledentistry, Humana members have a $0 copay with no visit limit, and they don’t incur travel costs or need to take extra time away from work or school.

Teledentistry solutions are the next step in the evolving telehealth space — and are just the latest way health insurance providers are helping meet people who need care where they are, no matter where that is.

This material is provided for informational use only and should not be used in place of consulting a licensed professional or construed as medical, legal, financial or other professional advice. You should consult with an applicable licensed professional to determine what is right for you.