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Should dentists halt their practice in the third wave?

patient-pov-while-dentist-ppe-suit-against-covid-is-working-tooth-hygine-dental-office-safety-gear-against-coronavirus-during-heatlhcare-Dental health in third wave

Written by Dr Krupa Patil

Medically reviewed by  Dr. Vidhi Bhanushali Kabade BDS, TCC

December 4, 2021

Coronavirus has created havoc for the past two years worldwide. Dental industry has certainly taken a major hit in comparison to other healthcare systems across the globe. According to studies conducted, dentists were are higher risk of getting infected with COVID-19. The close proximity of the dental professions to the patients along with the dental team present in one room increases the risk of transmission of disease. Especially when we are aware that omicron has a high transmission rate compared to the other variants of the virus. This of course becomes even riskier. This also raises a question about, should dentists halt their practice in the third wave ?

The latest news suggests the omicron variant is definitely the most contagious variant, but the delta variant is deadlier than the rest. This certainly needs extra care as there is no definitive information of this variant at the moment.

Making the decision

We survived the first two waves taking all the necessary precautions. Various measures were taken up to offer better services to the patients. The last two years medical professionals have been working day in and out risking their lives to serve the patients suffering from covid. Imagine if hospitals are shut where would patients go and turn up to.

We dentists have taken the oath to serve all our patients in need and it’s time to prove it. Researches are still going on whether the omicron variant is deadlier than the previous variants or not and it’s time again no one knows what’s coming. We were definitely not prepared earlier during the year 2020 and did not know anything about the virus. It was all new to us and we definitely had thoughts about the world coming to an end with the pandemic. We were then forced to halt all the non-emergency treatments during the lockdown.

But we are definitely better prepared this time and have much more information about the virus than ever before. Dentists need not halt their practice if proper precautions are taken and they implement the standard and covid appropriate sanitization protocols. There are no such guidelines by the DCI to halt emergency treatment procedures during the third wave and it’s ultimately the decision rests in the hands of the dentists.

Should dentists halt their practice in the third wave? Image

Taking new actions

If you have made up your mind to continue your practice during such critical times, here are some actions you can take. Before the patient visits the dental clinic, teleconsultation can be done to find out the severity of the problem faced by the patient. Accordingly, appointments can be scheduled for the same. Standard measures need to be taken like wearing personnel protective kits, face shields, goggles while they work still need to be continued.

While on the other hand, we also need to pay attention to preventing the transmission among the patients in the waiting area, considering omicron has a high transmission rate.

Allow new patients to enter the clinic only when the previous patient has left and the clinic is sanitized and ready for the new patient to enter. Religious screening of the patient should be followed as soon as the patient enters the dental clinic. To maintain high level of safety, it is advised to not allow your patients to bring their relatives along for the treatment.

Avoiding the spread of the aerosol

Owing to the type of instruments that dentists use, aerosols are generated on a higher scale which becomes a mode for the spread of infection and plays a role in cross-contamination in the dental clinic. With the generation of aerosols from the dental instruments have led to significant changes in their work routine due to the transmission of infection and lockdown effects too.

Number of patients who visit the dental clinic may be asymptomatic who may be shedding the virus thereby making it compulsory for the dentist to keep a track of patients’ history while visiting their dental clinic. Dental practice involves both close contact to the airway and generation of aerosol sprays, thus it presents a high-risk environment to catch or pass these infections.

Dental professionals should be aware of areas affected by emerging infections, the incubation period and the recent travel history of patients. 

Taking care of our children

With the emergence of the new variant Omicron coming into picture, and creating a ruckus among the population, dentists need not worry to shut down their clinics as they are already ready to face anything new. Rather care should be taken for individuals who have not been vaccinated at all.

The age group that falls under this category are those below 18 years of age. Since this new variant has the potential to spread at a faster rate than its other variants, utmost care should be taken while delivering the treatment to the younger age group. Pedodontists should now switch on to alert mode.

What measures can be taken up?

If the aerosol-generating procedure is required for the treatment then the operator should use high-speed suction and rubber band in order to avoid the spread of the water droplets from the instruments used. According to studies droplets are differentiated as spatter (>50 µm), droplet (≤ 50 µm) and droplet nuclei (≤10 µm).

In order to avoid the spread of the infection further, the patients are advised to use appropriate masks when they visit the clinic, sanitize their hands before entering the clinic. If an individual wants to sneeze or cough appropriate etiquettes should be followed, that is covering their face with the help of a handkerchief or the sleeve of their top. In the clinic, high efficacy particulate air filters (HEPA filters), gas filters, and electrostatic filters assist in purifying the air in and outside the dental operatories.

How can tele-dentistry help your patients?

TeleDentistry has become a boon as such times. It is a new idea that is gathering a lot of attention from all over the world thereby treating patients with much comfort. TeleDentistry can be done in many ways, the patient either can have a real-time conversation with the dentist or in the form of the “ store and forward” method the problems can be tackled later by the dentist.

How can dental technology help?

Tele dentistry platforms like DentalDost have a 24-hour emergency helpline service that they provide to all their patients free of cost to help those patients in need. The DentalDost AI app also helps patients scan their teeth and get an instant diagnosis about what’s wrong with their teeth and also makes patients aware of the emergency and non-emergency treatment needed for them especially during such times when people are again scared to visit the clinics.

DentalDost AI-powered app with the help of dentists was able to diagnose 8 Mucormycosis cases in India. Patients were able to seek the right treatment at the right time. This is how even dental technology can be used to predict diseases and help patients seek treatment as early as possible with less suffering especially during such times of the third wave.

Author Bio: Krupa Patil is currently working as an intern in School of Dental Sciences, KIMSDU, Karad. She has been nominated for the Pierre Fauchard Award from School of Dental Sciences. She has one article published in a journal which is PubMed indexed and currently working on one patent and two design patents. 4 copyrights are also present under name. She has a hobby of reading, writing about different aspects of dentistry and is a vivid traveler. She continuously seeks out training and professional development opportunities that allow her to remain aware and knowledgeable about new dental practices and latest technology is being considered or used.

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