Impact of COVID-19 on Dental Practice
With the current pandemic going on around the world, a lot has changed in our daily lives. In March, the government and health authorities recommended that dental clinics immediately stop seeing patients, except for emergency treatment. The resulting office closures led to unprecedented revenue declines across the sector. The vital thing to keep in mind is that unlike many other businesses, much of this is a deferral of revenue, not the loss of income. Now with the lock-down of almost three months, how will dentistry be remembered during this pandemic? Will we be remembered for slowing the spread of corona-virus by closing our clinics and postponing non-essential or non-urgent dental care? Will our quarantine be remembered as a selfless and responsible act? It certainly will be, and I applaud all who decided to protect both employees and patients. Dentists, dental hygienists, and other dental professionals are at a very high risk of occupational exposure to COVID-19 alongside paramedics, nurses, and other health-care workers. In recent times, a change in the pattern of dental practices is noticed that focuses on the economic realities of the practice. However, post-pandemic, practices might also begin to focus on patient-centered outcomes like the consistency of care, interaction with staff, and infection control. We will be stepping on an unpredictable path because it is a potential threat to both doctors and patients with current practices. With the use of high powered devices like Airotors, which works on compressed air and water, the formation of aerosol occurs. Most treatment procedures performed have the potential to develop contaminated aerosols and splatter. It shows that the future of dental clinics and colleges is terrifying. It's like placing your hand in the lion's mouth as all of the dentistry takes place inside a patient's mouth. Dental treatment prices, which are already considered as expensive, will rise even higher as dentists will have to follow the new protocols strictly for every patient and every appointment. From decontaminating, disinfecting, and sterilization of the clinics as prescribed, we can treat a maximum of only 3 or 4 patients a day. Dentists and the assistants will now need to compulsory use PPE suits, goggles, face shields, N95 FFP3 masks, surgical gloves, and shoe covers, single-use chair covers, and more for all procedures. For sure, there will be worries and fears, both for the patients and the dentists. We will be caught in terrible times as we won't know the patient's contact history. Now when we look at dentistry from an economic background, let's consider the month the government removes travel and group gathering restrictions as month zero. Expect consumer spending to return within a week of month zero. It is expected that consumers will spend on essentials, followed by a period of liquidity crunch where spending will decrease again. This is expected to be followed by a sustained period of high growth in consumer confidence. For dentistry, this may mean that patients initially focus only on emergency procedures or the treatment that matters to them. This might not be excellent news for periodontists and orthodontics in particular. But there is an alternate possibility where patients, fresh from "house arrest," go all out and spend money on things that make them look good and feel better. However, as time stands still, it is challenging to predict what the future holds for all dental graduates, practitioners, and dental students. As dentists, and more importantly, as health professionals, we have to be prepared for this new reality.