Marlen Marin mug for health 0507

Marlen Marin, nurse practitioner

With coronavirus cases on the rise, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis issued a stay at home order which started at midnight on April 2. This is to be adhered to unless pursuing essential services or activities.

But how does this impact our ability to seek medical or dental assistance when we need it? What happens when we develop a toothache and the dentist office is closed?

As social distancing is in effect, it can be difficult to address medical or dental concerns without fear of exposing oneself to COVID 19. Prior to the pandemic, a resource called telemedicine was already taking place, addressing minor health concerns, and providing treatment through electronic communication and information sharing for diagnosing.

In a similar manner, teledentistry can also be utilized to expedite care and shorten your length of time in the office.

According to The American TeleDentistry Association, teledentistry is “the use of electronic information, imaging and communication technologies, including interactive audio, video and data communications to provide and support dental care delivery, diagnosis, consultation, treatment, transfer of dental information and education.”

Many times, if you were to seek your routine primary care provider for a dental concern or infection, they would end up referring you to your dentist or an oral and maxillofacial surgeon.

Due to COVID 19, the American Dental Association (ADA) and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have restricted patient visits to be on an emergency basis only until further notice. Emergencies can consist of uncontrolled bleeding, diffuse soft tissue bacterial infection with swelling, intra- or extra-orally, or trauma involving facial bones which can potentially compromise the patient’s airway.

The goal is to relieve severe pain and infection. Pathology consultations are also permitted for evaluation and biopsy of any abnormal tissue. These limitations can put a strain on previously scheduled patients or those who wished to be seen prior to the virus outbreak. But with the accessibility of teledentistry, one can conveniently communicate via a secured program with an oral surgeon’s office to address any necessary procedures, which can be scheduled after the state quarantine is cleared.

In efforts to minimize the physical visit in the oral surgery office, one will initially complete a virtual consult with a provider through a smart phone, tablet or computer. A comprehensive health history would be obtained, and details such as chronic conditions and medications would be reviewed in preparation for surgery.

At this time, any pre-existing records or imaging provided by the patient can be reviewed to aid in establishing a preliminary treatment plan. Details regarding pre- and post-surgical instructions will be discussed and prescriptions may be provided.

Following the virtual consultation, the patient would then come into the office for a physical exam. Tasks such as checking blood pressure, obtaining panoramic X-rays, listening to heart and lungs, and of course, an intra-oral exam would be performed. After evaluation, the provider may establish and/or confirm the preliminary treatment plan for surgery.

With the accessibility of teledentistry, a patient’s evaluation would be expedited in the comfort of his or her own home. Between now and the scheduled office visit, they could be provided any necessary prescriptions such as antibiotics to address acute infection and severe pain. Follow-up appointments can also be addressed.

Through this outlet, not only are we able to minimize the length of time in the office setting, concerns are addressed sooner rather than later. This can reduce complications and potential hospitalization.

By implementing teledentistry, we can ensure hospital resources are being spared and patients are being seen promptly.

Social distancing does not mean you must suffer alone. With the beauty of modern technology, dental support can be achieved.

Marlen Marin is nurse practitioner with Citrus Oral & Facial Surgery, Crystal River. Visit www.citrusofs.com or email oralsurgery@citrusofs.com.

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