August is Oral Health Awareness Month and many Missourians are working now to ensure community health improves in the future.

Teledentistry is a new trend in oral health care. In teledentistry, a dental hygienist comes to the community, reducing the travel barrier that many of us experience trying to access health care. The hygienist does all of the things hygienists do in the dental office, including cleanings and X-rays, in a community setting that people know locally, such as a school, community center, or even the local family doctor office.

The dentist looks at the collected information later and creates a plan for needed dental treatment.

Teledentistry puts the emphasis on prevention, which helps us avoid unwanted dental issues such as cavities, infections and dangerous conditions that prompt trips to the emergency room, where antibiotics and pain medications help but do not provide treatment.

A lot of people, particularly in rural areas, find barriers to dental care hard to get around. Teledentistry makes it much easier to get care. Not available in most states and new here, teledentistry will lead to better care and better community health.

Gary Harbison

executive director of Missouri Coalition for Oral Health

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