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Aug 17, 2023
New online tool provides a picture of oral health
woman using an online oral health tool

Quick Take

  • Dental anxiety can lead to untreated dental problems and poor oral health.
  • The SmartScan online tool can provide a preliminary oral health assessment using a smartphone.
  • Users can schedule a virtual dentist appointment to review results and discuss treatment options.

Everyone should see their dentist every six months for a regular checkup and cleaning to keep their teeth healthy and strong. However, nearly 40% of adults did not see a dentist during the past 12 months, according to the latest CDC data. A key reason is fear of dental treatment, which is experienced by 50-80% of U.S. adults in some degree.

“Dental anxiety is a common issue many dentists encounter,” said Dr. Cary Sun, chief dental officer at Cigna Healthcare. He added that dental anxiety can cause patients to avoid the dentist altogether, which can lead to untreated dental problems and poor oral health, and can have an impact on their overall health. “These people are more likely to need more specialized and complex dental care down the road, which can add to their emotional distress,” he said.

Fortunately, Cigna Healthcare now offers its more than 16.5 million commercial and individual plan members a way to check their oral health from the peaceful surroundings of their own home, or anywhere else they choose, through the use of their smartphone.

A dental check that is literally phoned in

With Dental.com’s SmartScan, members can receive a preliminary oral health assessment by taking and submitting five photos of their teeth using a smartphone, following simple instructions provided. SmartScan uses artificial intelligence and data-driven algorithms to analyze the photos for any potential dental issues such as plaque buildup, possible cavities, or tooth damage. The photos are also reviewed by a Cigna Healthcare network dentist. Members can also set up a virtual dentist appointment to review results, answer questions and discuss any treatment options.

Dr. Sun stressed that SmartScan is not a replacement for a dental examination, but it is very useful in informing members of potential dental problems, and the importance to seek care. He added that having the option to access a virtual dentist can help members alleviate their concerns so they can connect to the in-person care they need.

SmartScan is available at no cost through a partnership between Cigna Healthcare and Dental.com, the developer of the online tool. Members can access and use SmartScan at any time and as often as they like, by visiting dental.com/cigna using their smartphone web browser, with no app download required.

SmartScan is not just for people who are reluctant to see a dentist. “Members who have regular dental checkups can use the tool between appointments whenever they experience any tooth pain or discomfort, or to continuously monitor the status of their oral health,” Dr. Sun said.

woman at the dentist

A healthy mouth is as important as a healthy body

When you care for your teeth, your whole body benefits. Learn more about dental care and other oral health topics.

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978866  Pending approval in NM and UT.