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COVID-19 advances acceptance of teledentistry among patients

A survey has found that 78% of those respondents who used online communication tools to interact with their dentist during the pandemic will continue to do so for non-emergency cases in the future. (Image: Elnur/Shutterstock)

Dubai, UAE: A survey of residents in the UAE and Saudi Arabia has found that 88% of the respondents appreciate the advantages of teledentistry and online communication more now than they did before the SARS-CoV-2 pandemic. The results of the survey are part of a wider white paper that was presented at the second Digital Health MENA Forum last autumn in Dubai.

The survey was conducted among 1,000 participants, half of whom were based in the UAE and the other half in Saudi Arabia. They responded to questions concerning their sentiments about the future of telehealth and teledentistry and how these have been influenced by the pandemic, Angelo Maura, general manager for the Middle East and Africa region at Align Technology, told Dental Tribune Middle East in an interview.

Reflecting on the key results, he said: “We found that patients had definitely undergone a mind shift by embracing the new normal of digital dentistry.” Even though only 32% of the respondents used online digital communication tools to interact with their dentist during the COVID-19 lockdown, the majority of those who did (78%) said that they found them convenient and intended to continue to use these digital tools for non-emergency care in the future.

Moreover, the study results show a balance of opinions about the safety of visiting a dental office during the pandemic: 44% of the respondents visited a dentist between March and June 2020, whereas 42% did not make an appointment owing to concerns about possible risks. Nevertheless, consumer confidence in dentists remained high, 80% trusting their dentist to take the necessary precautions to protect patients.

Based on these results, it is clear that practitioners who use digital platforms for communication with their patients are more likely to be able to maintain their operations during the pandemic and especially lockdowns.

“We […] found that nothing can replace face-to-face interaction, as direct dentist care is still fundamental in the industry. And we do believe in that. However, it will be very important for dental professionals to find a balance between face-to-face care and teledentistry in order to give a better service and better care to patients,” emphasised Maura.

The white paper, titled “Digitisation and patient care: Mapping new opportunities in the dental sector”, was released by Align Technology.

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