Virtual Dentistry: The TeleDentists' Solution to U.S. Dental Care Challenges

February 27, 2024   |   Dental

The TeleDentists is creating a new model of oral healthcare by meeting emergency dental demands and lowering dental care bills.

Of all the healthcare happening on telehealth, dental care is among the least likely. Dental visits include deep cleanings and close views of the mouth to detect cavities.

But The TeleDentists has built a niche of dental care that meets patients’ emergency dental needs, connects more people to routine dental care and supports emergency room staff with oral care expertise.

The company’s rapid growth since its founding underscores the critical need for improved access to dental care in the United States

Consider some of the following sobering U.S. dental care statistics

  1. 13.2% of children ages 5–19 years and over 25% of adults ages 20-64 have untreated cavities (CDC)
  2. Visits to the emergency room for preventable dental problems cost taxpayers, hospitals and the government about $2 billion a year (Journal of Public Health Dentistry
  3. Oral diseases are the most widespread noncommunicable diseases, affecting 45% (3.5 billion) people worldwide throughout their lives (WHO)
  4. Gum disease is a risk factor for nearly 60 other adverse health conditions, including Alzheimer’s disease, diabetes, and heart disease (NIH)

Drs. Maria Kunstadter and Michael Sigler founded the TeleDentists just before the pandemic to meet urgent dental care needs. The business took off in 2020 when local dental offices closed. Today, The TeleDentists matches patients with over 300 dentists working in all 50 states and U.S. territories, offering 24/7 dental care.

Despite the fact that oral health is connected to overall areas of health, dental healthcare exists outside of primary care. Many people don’t have dental coverage or have minimal coverage, causing many to wait for an emergency to seek care. Dentists can be hard to access in rural areas. Even in communities with many dentists, they tend to work less than 40 hours a week, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics

Leah Sigler, president of The TeleDentists, says, “We tease that dentistry is the stepchild of healthcare. It’s pushed to the side when oral disease is the most prevalent disease in the world.” 

The TeleDentists are filling this care vacuum by connecting patients to telehealth dentists who can provide virtual care or connect patients with in-person care when necessary.

Anyone who’s had a toothache knows that dental emergencies rarely come at a convenient time. The TeleDentists can step in to provide interim care to manage urgent needs. Instead of going to urgent care for an oral health concern or even before a patient can get an appointment in a local dental office, a teledentist can prescribe non-narcotic medication for obvious inflammation. The patient can get relief from an antibiotic and be referred to the appropriate specialist in their area.

The TeleDentists also partner with hospitals and urgent care centers to help support patients with dental emergencies. They support primary care physicians by integrating telehealth appointments into wellness visits and teaching them how to apply fluoride varnish. “If somebody is in a primary care office and says their last dental visit was over a year ago, they can be handed a tablet and have a teledentistry consultation right there,” says Sigler. 

As The TeleDentists continues to expand, they are finding new ways to meet oral healthcare needs and integrate dentistry into primary care. Sigler sees this as only the beginning of improving oral health in the U.S. “We’re the dentists’ best friend. The teledentist industry is not replacing a dental visit but a triage into an actual dental office.”


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