Complex Made Simple

Tele-dentistry cutting its teeth on in-home and digital care  

According to a recent YouGov survey, nearly 88% of residents in the UAE and Saudi value the benefits of digital communication and tele-dentistry more now than they did pre-COVID-19

78% of respondents will continue to use online communication with their dentists for non-emergency cases Practitioners who implemented virtual platforms were more likely to be able to maintain business continuity Basma claims that its at-home treatment is 65% cheaper than any other in-clinic teeth straightening treatment

According to a recent YouGov survey, nearly 88% of residents in the UAE and Saudi value the benefits of digital communication and tele-dentistry more now than they did pre-COVID-19.  

The survey revealed that 78% of respondents will continue to use online communication with their dentists for non-emergency cases in the future. While only one-third (32%) of the respondents used digital communication tools to interact with their dentists during the COVID-19 lockdown, a majority (78%) of those who did said they found digital tools convenient.

44% of respondents visited a dentist between March to June 2020, compared to the 42% who didn’t out of concerns around potential risks amid the pandemic.

To further explore the key learnings from this crisis for the sector, Align Technology, sponsors of the YouGov survey, established an Advisory Council bringing together leading orthodontists from the region to initiate a dialogue around the impact of the pandemic. Four key themes were explored: The importance of flexibility and adaptability, the role of tele-dentistry and digital workflow, business continuity planning and delivering quality dental care, and improving patient confidence.

The Council found that practitioners who implemented virtual platforms were much more likely to be able to maintain business continuity during the pandemic, compared to those who were yet to embrace digitization.

The council called for the need to instill a shift in mindset by the dental industry in line with the aspirations of today’s digitally-focused consumer. This means incorporating a digital ecosystem to complement their practice workflow and make processes more efficient and convenient for both doctors and patients.

Angelo Maura, General Manager, Middle East and Africa of Align Technology, said: “We firmly believe that nothing replaces the personal touch of a medical or dental professional. Nevertheless, we want to help dental health practitioners to understand how they can leverage the power of digitization to transform their practices, whilst continuing to deliver exceptional care for patients in this rapidly-changing landscape.”

Local startup Basma

Basma, a tele-dentistry startup that offers at-home teeth straightening treatments in the Middle East & North Africa, saw a big surge in its revenues in 2020 with 400% growth in May & June, compared to March & April.

Most of its sales came from Saudi, but also orders from the UAE, Qatar, Kuwait, Lebanon, and even European markets like France & Spain.

Launched in 2019, Basma first sells an impression kit to its customers that comes with instructions and videos to help customers take molds of their teeth and send them back to it.

Its orthodontists then prepare and send customers their treatment plans. The impression kit normally goes for $92. If Basma’s orthodontist determines that its aligners are not the right fit for the customers, the startup refunds the payment made for the impression kit.

The customers who receive their plan can order the aligners for a one-time payment of $1,699 or monthly installments of $364. The startup claims that its at-home treatment is 65% cheaper than any other in-clinic teeth straightening treatment.

Basma’s orthodontists monitor the progress and guide the customers’ personalized treatment through tele-health consultations. The Beirut-born startup had raised $1.2 million in a seed round early in 2020.

 Disrupting oral healthcare

Tele-dentistry is one of the opportunities that have arisen from disruptions to oral healthcare during the pandemic, the Gerontological Society of America said in a new report with recommendations.

During the pandemic, daily brushing, flossing, and other routine care taskswere sometimes left unattended for patients as long-term care staff members were diverted to provide COVID-19 care, the report noted. Proper oral care also was challenged by staff members’ fears about the potential for oral transmission of COVID-19.

This brought attention to teledentistry which can provide care when needed and before convincing administrators and clinicians of the need to restart in-person care for patients.