Online Dentistry – Filling a Covid Cavity

A north Wales Dental Practice and an M-SParc tenant have worked together to create an online dentist surgery! In the face of COVID-19 this platform provides an alternative and no-contact way of ‘visiting’ the dentist.

We all know how important our oral health is. Those all-important 6 monthly visits to the dentist, although something we may dread, were part of our regular routine, essential to maintaining general health and well-being. Until the COVID-19 pandemic hit.

Those plagued by toothache will know full well how unpleasant it is, and being unable to prevent this, and to easily access treatment when it does occur, can have a huge impact on daily life. Luckily, one innovative dental surgeon and an M-SParc tenant have teamed up to create a solution.

The collaboration came about through one of the ‘sparcs’ that so often occur within M-SParc. A local accountant who worked with the practice mentioned the concept in passing to MD Pryderi ap Rhisiart, the cogs were in motion and those who could provide a solution were identified. That’s the power of the innovation eco-system that we have at M-SParc and how we’re able to match great ideas with solutions.

Within a week, Dr Dylan Parry-Jones, practice owner of GlanDwr Dental Practice, approached M-SParc tenant Andy Esser of Zero Dependency having recognised that he was seeing more emergency patients in lieu of performing preventative procedure but not knowing who could help. By working together we see real solutions and results.

Dr Parry-Jones, from Caernarfon, said “The intention was to create an online platform for consulting with patients, meaning any travel and touch restrictions due to coronavirus wouldn’t pose a problem! The system also needed to support video calls, patient data, payments, e-mailing functions, and schedule management, so it had to be quite sophisticated, but also easy for the patient to navigate.”

The platform was trailed in June, was “patient ready” by mid-July, and had its first happy customer by the month’s end. It works by allowing the patient to take photographs of their mouth, or to film this live while in a virtual consultation, which can be done by anyone with a phone camera or tablet. These images are then shared with the dentist, who is able to identify any potential issues, and provide treatment where necessary.

There are various video calls and conference apps our there, we are all very familiar with them after working from home for this time, but none are suitable for confidential medical consolations. They also aren’t set up for taking a payment, or for creating a patient-focused experience

Confidentiality and security was key from day one. Andy Esser, who developed the platform, said “There are various levels of encryption employed within the platform, from the storage of data, to all communication being encrypted. On top of this all video calls and the underlying signalling technology is encrypted end to end so that patients can be confident that their information isn’t being intercepted. Patients have found this very reassuring.

 Additional to this is the video communication technology itself, which is built using tools that all modern web browsers provide – but was particularly a problem initially on iOS devices where iPhones were the biggest culprit of needing some extra care to ensure they experience was as good as possible for the patient. I’m really pleased to be able to present the end-product.”

While there are some online dental platforms already out there, this one allows current patients to keep speaking to their own local dentist, who is familiar with their history and treatment plans, and makes the experience as ‘normal’ as can be possible in our current climate.

It will be interesting to see how many more services go virtual over the coming months, and whether this means more people can prioritise their health; not just during a pandemic, but during busy times when the drive to the dentist and sitting in the waiting room mean it’s often easier to avoid going! Our busy lifestyles may benefit from more tools like this.

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