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Oral health counselling to be provided remotely more often

The FSHS has offered remote counselling for oral health since 2021. Oral health care is very procedure-oriented, but some counselling and self-care guidance can be provided as remote services. The FSHS’s remote services were the subject of a presentation by Krista Brander-Aalto, the FSHS’s Medical Director of Dentistry, at the Finnish Dental Congress on 9 November 2023.

Oral health services are provided remotely to help reduce waiting times and diversify the range of services available. Preventive counselling and guidance, in particular, are well suited for remote provision. Experience has shown that both patients and healthcare professionals get more out of remote appointments than from phone contacts alone. Remote appointments can also serve as initial meetings for patients with fear of dental procedures and enable information sharing before procedures such as oral surgery.

Developing remote services can be challenging in the procedure-oriented area of oral health, as there’s a significant amount of manual work involved and making diagnoses remotely is no easy task. Some patient groups benefit from face-to-face appointments, even when it comes to counselling.

“Providing remote services should not be an end in itself, but both the patient and the professional should find them meaningful. Remote services don’t automatically save time for professionals,” Brander-Aalto points out.

At the FSHS, remote counselling focuses on non-urgent care, individual and group counselling, and consultations. Students like to use digital services, which has made it easier to develop remote services.

So far in 2023, the FSHS has organised four nationwide remote groups dealing with jaw dysfunction, each reaching around a hundred students at a time. A questionnaire was then used to collect information about the students’ experiences, and the results showed that the majority of participants had followed the self-care instructions occasionally or regularly after the remote group sessions. More than 70% of respondents did not feel the need to contact the FSHS for jaw dysfunction-related problems after the sessions.

New groups are planned for self-care in oral health as well as for quitting smoking and snuff use. In the future remote and local services will be combined more frequently.

At present only 1% of the oral health appointments at the FSHS are conducted remotely, compared with 60-70% in general and mental health. The remote groups in oral health and many of the digital services are not reflected in the appointment statistics, as they’re low-threshold services offered without prior registration.

“Counselling and guidance can reduce the need for local appointments. Remote groups, in particular, will be an important treatment model in the future,” Brander-Aalto says.

Read more about the start of remote counselling in 2021: Remote counselling now available for oral health – FSHS