Changing the Value of Dentistry During a Pandemic
Across the country, dental practices are slowly opening to see patients other than those in an “emergency” situation. Some practices have full schedules, and others struggle with too much open time and reluctant patients. The dentists that kept in contact with patients with information and advice have fared better with the opening.
We must follow the state laws and that of the CDC and the ADA. We want to do what is right, but in the business of providing dental care, dentistry is “essential to health and total wellbeing” and cannot be postponed much longer. In the dental profession, we have been practicing with universal precautions ever since the AIDS/Human immunodeficiency virus presented itself in the early 1980s. The unseen enemy was again an unknown virus. It has killed over a million people since its existence. During the 1980s, we looked at every patient as if they had the infection and took the proper precautions to protect ourselves from blood and other bodily fluids. The list of PPE gets longer as now we must practice wearing gloves, surgical gowns, face shields, eyewear, surgical caps, and foot covering, and let us not forget the N95 masks for all aerosol-generating procedures. Along with the new emphasis on creating an aerosol free environment comes the costs to achieve the protection we all need. Some of our concerns are:
- Will we have staff that wants to return to work? Will they feel safe? Can they stay on unemployment longer? Will we have to downsize to a smaller, more cross-trained staff until we get growth?
- Will we be able to get the proper quality PPE (Personal Protective Equipment), and will the supplies be there when we need them? Can we get the equipment necessary to create an aerosol free environment, and will it be affordable and available?
- What is the most critical step to protect our monetary margins and survive?
- What can we do to ensure revenue collections are constant?
We surely have challenges ahead, and we need all the support we can get.
Recently in the news, a supporter of opening dental practices for the good of the country is Senator Susan Collins (R-Maine). She presented a clear case for the need for dental care to protect the community from further health decline.
Also, the ADA has reached out to the CDC to reconsider its standing on keeping dental practices closed at the request of its members.
As dentists, we must provide a better pathway to educating the public about the essential value of preventive dental care. As dental care providers, we know the importance of preventive maintenance procedures, but the public needs more information on a better platform. Educating the people in the media is relegated to commercials selling toothpaste and mouthwash. It must be more than this in mainstream marketing, or dental care will suffer more now than before the pandemic’s catastrophic release. We need to lead a campaign for establishing the need for dental hygiene and dental restorative procedures.
Motivated by this dilemma, eAssist rose to the challenge to start the eAssist Dental Health Education Foundation. We are creating billboards that will be on display across the country, promoting dental hygiene with links to information and education contacts. Our mission statement is to “Teach the world the importance of dental hygiene and how it is foundational to healthy living.” The education campaign is in the formative stages, and there is a lot of excitement from the dental community to support the success of this project. We do this to promote essential dental care and to protect our patients’ overall health and immunity. We do this to ensure that preventive and restorative dentistry is never ruled as non-essential health care again.
The pandemic mantra is that we are all in this together. Together we will create a more robust and more dynamic dental health care community.