The 2021 Teledentistry Innovation Awards recognize those  helping to shape best practices, create new approaches, and make technology work for real-world benefits in dental care and oral health. Here from this year’s winners below!

Dr. Kwane Watson

Kare Mobile

Award Category: Dentist/Specialist

Dr. Watson has pioneered methods to utilize teledentistry in a way that makes mobile concierge dentistry more effective, productive, and profitable – while also enhancing the experience for patients. He has greatly impacted the city of Louisville, KY with his practice Kare Mobile and continues to be a leader within the community with his outreach and work through his non-profit On-Demand Kare.

Teledentistry has allowed Dr. Watson and his team to exceed patient expectations. Here’s what he had to say:

Our patients see teledentistry as just a ‘wow’ type of factor. In our vans, we actually have TVs that allow them to see the doctor and see their images at the same time. It allows them to feel like the doctor’s right there providing these examinations while they’re being seen by the hygienist on the van. So far, the customer experience has been great for the patient. 

Teledentistry has been a win for the providers as well…

What surprised me most about teledentistry is just how clear the images are and how well we’re able to see things and how we can see certain things, instruct the hygienist to manipulate the camera in different ways so that we can truly, in conjunction with seeing the x-rays, get a clear picture of what that patient’s needs are in advance of their comprehensive appointment.

Harvard School Of Dental Medicine

Accepting: Dr. Shibani Sahni

Award Category: Educational Institution

The disruptive nature of the pandemic provided an opportunity to rethink and redesign courses at Harvard School of Dental Medicine (HSDM).  Dr. Sahni, a faculty member at HSDM who has been a dentist for over a decade and a half, saw the importance of teledentistry and teaching students about modern treatment options and technology.

We need to be preparing our students for the jobs in 2025 and for these purposes, I think innovation and having new dental education, new ways of teaching dentistry, are quite important.

More specifically, Dr. Sahni saw the opportunity for teledentistry to help groups previously left out of the traditional dental care system…

We also realized that there are special needs children who are suffering, who already found it difficult to get to dentists, which gave me more of an incentive to say, ‘Okay, how can we actually make this work for the long run, not just through the pandemic to see the emergencies, but also to reach the masses where they’re under-serviced, also to reach people in aged care, people in special needs school, where they aren’t able to come to the dentist, irrespective?’ 

Ravenswood Family Health Center

Accepting: Yogita Thakur, Chief Dental Officer

Award Category: Oral Health Program

In 2012, a grant from San Mateo F5 and a partnership with Arthur A. Dugoni Pacific School of Dentistry, enabled Ravenswood Family Health Center to pilot telehealth services with the goal of increasing access to diagnostic and preventive services. As part of this project, Ravenswood partnered with preschools in the community where services were provided by a dental hygienist. Additionally, Ravenswood implemented synchronous teledentistry visits to provide same-day preventive and diagnostic visits for children 12 months to 3 years of age who were seen in their pediatric medical clinics.

At the start of the pandemic, when clinics were closed to routine dental procedures, Ravenswood was able to pivot to utilize their existing skills, knowledge, and experience from telehealth to continue providing care. Ravenswood expanded the scope of services they were able to provide utilizing telehealth.

Dr. Thakur shared this heartwarming story about an elderly patient trying teledentistry for the first time…

 The sheer excitement he was exhibiting, that he could actually see the dentist on his phone, was amazing. He felt so much more comfortable. And he said, ‘wow, I never knew I could do this.’

He’s like, ‘boy, I had no idea my dentist or my doctor could be on the other side of the screen. Now, if something was to hurt, I could actually ask for this type of visit.’

Michelle Vacha RDH BS

Community Dental Health, Founder & Executive Director

Award Category: Dental Hygienist

Throughout Michelle Vacha’s journey in meeting the needs of her community, she found that teledentistry was the best way to increase access to care. Her goal is to increase access to care to underserved populations by going into schools, institutions such as nursing facilities, and rural counties, and to bring oral health care into overall health care. She sees that teledentistry can help dental teams collaborate with physicians treating diabetes, surgeons performing joint replacement, and emergency rooms seeing trauma victims and oral pain. Below, Michelle shares her inspirational motivation for starting her nonprofit, Community Dental Health.

I saw how difficult it was for the elderly people to come to the dental office with their chronic health conditions, their frailty. And to be left an hour before their appointment or take two hours after their appointment before they’d even be picked up, it was so hard on them. And then many of them were on fixed incomes and really struggled on being able to afford regular dental care.