The new coro­n­avirus (COVID-19) pan­dem­ic has sig­nif­i­cant­ly altered how the den­tal indus­try oper­ates. Here are three ways the pan­dem­ic has changed the den­tal insur­ance land­scape.

Timid patients

There’s an almost dai­ly debate of what con­sti­tutes a good rea­son for leav­ing your house right now. Indi­vid­ual states are at dif­fer­ent stages of re-open­ing or shut­ting back down. With so much uncer­tain­ty, it makes sense that 42% of patients respon­dents may skip or post­pone care out of fear or dis­com­fort, par­tic­u­lar­ly for non-emer­gency pro­ce­dures.

This on top of the 61% of peo­ple who already suf­fer den­tal fears means that show­ing patients the exten­sive infec­tion con­trol mea­sures in place may be an impor­tant aspect of get­ting them back in the chair.

A boom in teledentistry

Tele­den­tistry is a way for den­tists to pro­vide a vir­tu­al con­sul­ta­tion through a phone call, text, or video chat. Den­tists can use tele­den­tistry to address prob­lems that don’t need an office vis­it, which allows them to save time and mon­ey on infec­tion con­trol mea­sures like per­son­al pro­tec­tive equip­ment and san­i­tiz­ing office spaces. This gives prac­tices an ide­al way to assess and triage patients with­out a risk of expo­sure, while also poten­tial­ly allow­ing a den­tist to see more patients in a day.

Even before the pan­dem­ic, tele­den­tistry was show­ing itself as an inter­est­ing and promis­ing addi­tion to tra­di­tion­al den­tal care. It allows den­tists to see patients who are at-risk, live in rur­al areas, or those who just desire the con­ve­nience as well as poten­tial­ly decreas­ing costs of den­tal care over­all.

The key ingre­di­ent to the suc­cess of tele­den­tistry is wide­spread patient accep­tance. One pos­si­ble issue, accord­ing to a review of survey’s about tele­den­tistry, is that patients may feel like the qual­i­ty of care received remote­ly is not as high as care received in per­son. How­ev­er, users in one study were gen­er­al­ly sat­is­fied with the expe­ri­ence and respon­dents in anoth­er sur­vey indi­cat­ed that they would use tele­den­tistry if it was avail­able.

Americans losing health insurance

The biggest shift has been in the num­ber of peo­ple with access to health insur­ance. With mil­lions of jobs lost, many indi­vid­u­als and their fam­i­lies have lost both their cov­er­age from their employ­ers as well as a steady income. Accord­ing to researchers from the Urban Insti­tute, some indi­vid­u­als will be able to become insured under a fam­i­ly member’s pol­i­cy, through the Afford­able Care Act mar­ket­place, Med­ic­aid or by choos­ing indi­vid­ual cov­er­age through a bro­ker. Still, that leaves almost 3.5 mil­lion peo­ple who may become unin­sured. With the end of fed­er­al pro­grams to sup­port those who have lost their jobs, one big ques­tion for the den­tal indus­try is whether or not peo­ple will make the choice to go to the den­tist.