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Thursday June 8th

UNC's dentistry school rolls out virtual care amid stay-at-home order

UNC's Adams School of Dentistry is making strides to go digital. Photo courtesy of Chris Pope, the school’s creative media specialist.
Buy Photos UNC's Adams School of Dentistry is making strides to go digital. Photo courtesy of Chris Pope, the school’s creative media specialist.

We're all getting familiar with online classes, online presentations and online meetings. But the UNC Adams School of Dentistry is advancing a new form of virtual contact — online dentistry. 

During the COVID-19 outbreak and because of the a statewide stay-at-home order, Carolina Dentistry is offering teledentistry services through a virtual helpline to patients and oral health care providers. 

This online service was developed to try to maintain patient-centered care while limiting the dental clinic to emergencies only, according to University Communications. Patients are able to virtually connect with a health care professional who provides advice for non-emergent oral health needs or referrals for emergencies that must be addressed face to face. 

The helpline also allows oral health care professionals throughout North Carolina to speak with a specialist for patient consultations or referrals during an emergency.

 Dr. Shaun Matthews, an associate professor at the dentistry, aided in the development of the oral heath care helpline. Matthews said the line intends to try to and keep as many patients as possible at home. 

“If we can manage patients who have dental problems by providing them access to specialists at our school, the UNC Adams School of Dentistry, by offering them teleconsultations using either audio-visual conference calls or just telephone advice, then it makes complete sense to do so," Matthews said. 

Dr. Rocio Quinonez, the associate dean of educational leadership and innovation at UNC Adams School of Dentistry, also helped develop the line. Quinonez said the shift to remote forms of care also provides educational value. 

“We are very excited about this initiative and the original vision that teledentistry becomes part of our student component, teaching students how to do this,” Quinonez said. 

Dr. Scott De Rossi, dean of the school, said despite COVID-19 being a significant human tragedy, it has created a sense of urgency for the development of teledentistry.

“The biggest challenge historically has been state law and a very restrictive state practice act, which has limited dentists' and hygienists' abilities to do the things that now we’re able to do as a result of COVID,” De Rossi said. “Hopefully, there will be some good that comes of this as we’re able to get a bit more latitude, new legislation, and the ability to change the state practice act so we can meet the challenge of being more efficient, treat patients where they are and create a better impact.”

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