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Dentists and Orthodontists and Coronavirus. Who’s Taking Care of Our Teeth?

I'm an orthodontist working 3 chairs in my office, should I raise walls between them? The consequences of COVID-19 to the dental practice

by Fabio Savastano
Dentisti corona virus

Photo by Lesly Juarez on Unsplash

If you’re a dentist or orthodontist like me, you’re probably heading to your office only for dental and orthodontic emergencies. As of today, I really don’t know of any full time working dental offices around the world. We are facing a big change that, in my opinion, is not temporary. So, what are we facing? Here is a small list of issues I’ve been talking about with some orthodontist friends on what the situation may look like once the social distancing restrictions will be lifted (is this virus still going to be around?):

  • Your patients are not going to be the same anymore.

They will not trust your usual standard cleaning procedures (even if they are perfect and safe).

They want to see and feel a change in your office. Don’t get me wrong, everybody knows that you did not start it all, but suspicion arises that your office could work as a hospital in spreading the virus. So probably you are at home now figuring out what extra sterilizing procedures can make your patients feel comfortable again.

  • You are not going to be the same doctor you were before COVID-19.

Yes, this may sound strange to you, but that’s how it is. You are probably saying to yourself “not with me buddy, I know I’m the same old doctor I’ve always been”. Well buddy, there is a lot of news out there, just take a look at this paper and tell me what you really think is happening to you :

Think of the consequences of this pandemic and apply them to yourself.

  • We will be coping with loss.

Loss of life, like a parent or a friend. There are many who fear Coronavirus because it has already taken something or someone.

Loss of wealth. Even if the vast majority will recover in a steady fashion, there will be some doctors out there that just won’t make it through a too-long forced suspension of services.

Loss of security. Yes, ultimately left in our mind, will be that feeling of lost trust towards our government leaders who did not do enough to prevent or manage this outbreak.

What will we have left, what will we have learned? I think there will be severe economic consequences for the dental sector in general. The lesson stands basically in applying emergency sterilization techniques as a standard of care, much more than we are probably used to do in our offices and probably much more than needed. Our waiting rooms will guarantee extra “safe” room, implementing this absurd concept of social distancing. In Europe we are used to hug and kiss when we say goodbye, and quite frankly I really don’t know how a change in this can become permanent.

I’m an orthodontist, and my main work space is 3 chairs. Should I raise walls? I’ve always thought that kids together make our work easier and faster. So, any change will undoubtedly be costly. Costs go up when you add special air sanitizers, 1 on 1 visits, full sterilization procedures between visits (add 10 minutes) and extra pay for extra hours for assistants and secretaries. Extra everything, extra stress, and a black dog just out your door: depression.

The risk for depression is real. Dentists are at high risk of exposure to this virus because our practices are full of aerosol procedures with easy contamination of surfaces (and indirect contact). Let’s add that we need to interact with our patients (even children) with an FFP2 mask at all times ( now you can really scare them like in a horror movie!). Mom wants to see it always on doc! Gloves at all times and changed frequently.

The big debate, and I tell you this is very important, is protecting your eyes and those of your patients. Everything you are doing in applying the most rigid safety sterilization protocol falls to “unsatisfactory” the moment there is a leak in the system: the question is, should we wear air proof goggles, that are the only way to protect entrance of the virus through the eyes?

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