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Dentist visits go remote during the covid-19 pandemic

The Covid-19 pandemic has transformed many in-person activities into remote services delivered over the internet. The latest example is the dreaded visit to the dentist.

Dvora Brandstatter used to drive her son Elchanan half an hour to the orthodontist and back every month to make sure his braces were working properly. Now, from the comfort of her home in Bergenfield, New Jersey, she attaches a special scope to her smartphone camera, opens an app and inserts the contraption into the 11 year-old’s mouth. A video of the boy’s choppers is sent to his dentist who checks progress, diagnoses any issues and sometimes ends the appointment right there.

“As a parent having fewer appointments is a good thing,” Brandstatter said. “I haven’t seen a downside so far. It’s probably the way everything is moving anyway.”

The app and the scope were created last year by New Jersey-based startup Grin. After the pandemic hit, Chief Executive Officer and dentist Adam Schulhof said the company sped up development of the technology and partnered with manufacturer 3M Co. to quickly distribute it to as many orthodontists as possible. About 5,000 units have shipped out and roughly 1,000 patients have used the system so far, according to Grin.

Schulhof, who uses the system for his own practice, said the coronavirus has spurred huge demand for new procedures that help people reduce the close contact that typically happens when they visit the dentist. The CDC has warned that dental instruments create spray that can contain droplets of water, saliva, blood and other debris, and has advised the use of “teledentistry” as an alternative to in-office care.

When the Grin videos arrive at the dentist’s office, other software from the startup helps practitioners analyze the condition of the teeth and integrates the footage with existing patient management systems. The app also lets patients see what the dentist sees inside their mouth. Not for the faint of heart.

There are already new, internet-focused dental services that Grin is going up against. Companies such as SmileDirectClub Inc. mail invisible aligners and braces to consumers. SmileDirectClub shares have more than doubled since the middle of March. Schulfhof said Grin’s offering is aimed at fighting the challenge to conventional dentistry from such direct-to-consumer offerings. “We’re trying to disrupt the disrupters,” he added.

In the short-term, the technology will help orthodontists keep their businesses running while many patients avoid the dentist’s office completely, the CEO said. As smartphone capabilities improve and the software develops, Schulhof expects Grin’s scope to use artificial intelligence image analysis to become a more powerful diagnostic tool for dentists.

The CEO also sees the technology gaining traction in general dentistry where insurance companies may back its use. People’s teeth decay at different rates and more regular, remote checks, could be used to identify problems before they require more complicated and expensive treatment at in-person visits every six months, he said.

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Even Dentist Visits Go Remote During the Covid-19 Pandemic

Remote Dentist GIF

The Covid-19 pandemic has transformed many in-person activities into remote services delivered over the internet. The latest example is the dreaded visit to the dentist.  

Dvora Brandstatter used to drive her son Elchanan half an hour to the orthodontist and back every month to make sure his braces were working properly. Now, from the comfort of her home in Bergenfield, New Jersey, she attaches a special scope to her smartphone camera, opens an app and inserts the contraption into the 11 year-old’s mouth. A video of the boy’s choppers is sent to his dentist who checks progress, diagnoses any issues and sometimes ends the appointment right there. 

“As a parent having fewer appointments is a good thing,” Brandstatter said. “I haven’t seen a downside so far. It’s probably the way everything is moving anyway.”

The app and the scope were created last year by New Jersey-based startup Grin. After the pandemic hit, Chief Executive Officer and dentist Adam Schulhof said the company sped up development of the technology and partnered with manufacturer 3M Co. to quickly distribute it to as many orthodontists as possible. About 5,000 units have shipped out and roughly 1,000 patients have used the system so far, according to Grin.

Grin's scope device

Grin’s scope device

Source: Grin

Schulhof, who uses the system for his own practice, said the coronavirus has spurred huge demand for new procedures that help people reduce the close contact that typically happens when they visit the dentist. The CDC has warned that dental instruments create spray that can contain droplets of water, saliva, blood and other debris, and has advised the use of “teledentistry” as an alternative to in-office care. 

When the Grin videos arrive at the dentist’s office, other software from the startup helps practitioners analyze the condition of the teeth and integrates the footage with existing patient management systems. The app also lets patients see what the dentist sees inside their mouth. Not for the faint of heart.

Remote Dentist GIF

Photographer: Grin

There are already new, internet-focused dental services that Grin is going up against. Companies such as SmileDirectClub Inc. mail invisible aligners and braces to consumers. SmileDirectClub shares have more than doubled since the middle of March. Schulfhof said Grin’s offering is aimed at fighting the challenge to conventional dentistry from such direct-to-consumer offerings. “We’re trying to disrupt the disrupters,” he added.

In the short-term, the technology will help orthodontists keep their businesses running while many patients avoid the dentist’s office completely, the CEO said. As smartphone capabilities improve and the software develops, Schulhof expects Grin’s scope to use artificial intelligence image analysis to become a more powerful diagnostic tool for dentists.

The CEO also sees the technology gaining traction in general dentistry where insurance companies may back its use. People’s teeth decay at different rates and more regular, remote checks, could be used to identify problems before they require more complicated and expensive treatment at in-person visits every six months, he said.

Alabama nursing homes to allow limited in-person visits

Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey announced Wednesday the resumption on Oct. 2 of limited in-person visits to nursing homes more than six months after they locked down in response to coronavirus.

Each nursing home resident will be allowed one caregiver or visitor at a time. Nursing homes can only permit indoor visits if they have not had a positive coronavirus case in two weeks, according to the Alabama Nursing Home Association. Facilities can limit the total number of visitors at one time and masks and social distancing will be required.

The Alabama Nursing Home Association provided the following guidance to family members:

· Do schedule an appointment to visit with your loved one

· Do use alcohol-based hand sanitizer before, during and after your visit

· Do wear a mask covering your mouth and nose during your entire visit in the facility

· Do maintain social distance of at least six feet from staff and residents

· Do keep out of areas that are not designated for visitation

· Don’t remove your mask while in the facility

· Don’t leave the designated visitation area

· Don’t come to the facility without an appointment

· Don’t come to the facility if you have any symptoms – coughing, sore throat, fever, vomiting, diarrhea, loss of sense of taste or smell – even if you attribute these symptoms to some other cause (allergies or cold).

More than 6,000 nursing home residents and 3,000 staff members in Alabama have been diagnosed with COVID-19 since March. The facilities often house sick and elderly people at high risk of complications and death from the virus. But families have become increasingly concerned that policies designed to protect vulnerable residents have caused cognitive and physical decline as they struggle with isolation and loneliness.

“It’s important for nursing home residents and their family members to be able to visit in person and this is another step toward returning life to normal in nursing homes,” said Brandon Farmer, President & CEO of the Alabama Nursing Home Association. “We are pleased [the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services] is moving in this direction and thankful Governor Kay Ivey and Dr. Scott Harris amended the state health order to accommodate this change.”

Some Alabama nursing homes have scheduled outdoor visits with family members. However, state regulators did not require outdoor visits or video calls with loved ones. The new guidelines require facilities to accommodate visits unless there are reasonable safety concerns.The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) said outdoor visits are preferable to indoor ones and should be encouraged whenever conditions allow.

Anna Braden of Huntsville joined the Alabama group Caregivers for Compromise to advocate for visits with nursing home residents, including her father, who lives in Madison. She said the announcement is a step in the right direction.

“This is the first time that Governor Ivey has ever said anything about the residents on lockdown in any of her press conferences,” Braden said. “I was excited about that. Now the next