Is Dentistry by Smartphone the Next Big Thing?

A new app that lets people take pictures of their teeth and send those to a dentist for evaluation needs more study, said Lockport, IL, Dentist, Patrick Healy.


The app, Toothpic, was created by the son of a dentist. Toothpic founder Mark Moore was having some gum pains. He snapped a picture and sent it to his dad for a quick check. Mr. Moore wound up going to a nearby dentist for help.

“I have to admit this is appealing on the surface of it,” said Dr. Healy. “Not long ago telemedicine was poo-pooed as TV doctoring. But now some physicians are using telemedicine equipment in their office because of the image quality and magnification it provides. Telemedicine also lets doctors in one city connect with patients many miles away.”

The difference is telemedicine is done by someone who knows what to do and how to work the equipment. Dr. Healy said that training and experience are vital to quality remote medical care.

“Are smartphones good enough to take pictures of your teeth? Some are certainly. At least the front teeth,” he said. “Reaching into the back of the mouth to check on molars and along the gum line next to the cheek is a bit different. Reaching hard to see spaces is exactly why dentists must use that little round mirror when they examine your teeth.”

The other issue with telemedicine, like this new app, is patient care. Dr. Healy said in a telemedicine clinic, the operator is a nurse, a tech or someone trained to use the equipment. They have a medical background, he said. 

Just taking pictures of teeth and sending it to a dentist leaves out the inspection of the teeth and gums that comes with a visit to the dentist’s office. Dr. Healy said all patients at his clinic get a personal checkup that simply cannot be done with a smartphone picture.

That, he said it is like taking a picture of a broken arm.

“You know the arm is broken. But how badly? Where is it broken? What needs to be done to reset it?” he said. “Pictures cannot set and cast a broken arm. Pictures cannot check a problem tooth properly because sometimes the problem is not visible from the outside.”

The other matter is the delayed response.

“If you are having problems with your teeth, you do not want to wait for days to have something done. When your teeth hurt, that is one pain where you want and need prompt attention,” he said.

Dr. Healy said you only get one set of teeth. Take care of them and visit a dentist regularly.

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Company Name: Patrick Healy DDS
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Phone: (815) 836-0001
Address:916 7th Street
City: Lockport
State: IL 60441
Country: United States