A group of leading professionals in the dental industry came together to identify problems that the COVID-19 crisis has created – and to brainstorm solutions.  

Many dental professionals are nervous as they prepare to reopen their offices after two months of complete lockdown. Despite the excitement of getting back to work and making up for lost income, dentists and hygienists are also worried about putting their health at risk. To help put this anxiety into perspective, Mr. Tamir Wolfson at Buzzy Branding brought together a diverse team of dental health professionals. Dr. Lionel Lenkinski, CEO and director of the Canadian Dental Protective Association, and Ms. Ondina Love, CEO of the Canadian Dental Hygienists association, came on board as representatives of regulatory bodies. Dr. Bobby Chagger, Dr. Sam Mazahreh and Dr. Michael Le, who each run their own dental practices, shared their insights on the challenges they face in day to day patient care. Ms. Christine Russell, director of business development at a leading dental practice, shared her perspective on practical economic and sourcing challenges.  

Many patients are relieved that their dentists are getting back to work. “Patients know that we use proper infection control protocols,” says Dr. Michel le, who owns Richmond Dental, adding that they were more annoyed at the treatment delay, than actually being concerned about infection risk. On the other hand, dental professionals recognize the real risk in getting back to work. 

“At this time, most dental hygienists are concerned about their own health and safety”, says Ms. Love, adding that 68% of hygienists had voiced their concern over this major issue. The conflicting guidelines issued by the College of Dental Hygienists of Ontario (CDHO), and the Royal College of Dental Surgeons of Ontario (RCDSO) hasn’t helped much. “When dental hygienists work with us, we need them to feel comfortable”, says Dr. Bobby Chagger, owner of Chagger Dental. He suggests that dentists and hygienists in the same dental team need to work together and figure out which guidelines work best for them. Dr. Sam Mazahreh, owner of Dentalook, strongly agrees, pointing out that the guidelines are based on evidence taken from medical procedures. “We need to have more studies in the dental field” stresses Dr. Le. 

Most dental offices comply with guidelines laid down by regulatory bodies. But is this enough? “The current screening tools for COVID-19 are simply inadequate” says Dr. Lenkinski, stressing that the onus is on the dentist to use the best methods of Universal precautions for the entire team. “Many dentists are preferring to follow the original guidelines issued by the RCDSO, rather than the newer, relaxed guidelines, which allow standard surgical masks to be used in lieu of N-95 masks. 

What about patient safety? Dr. Chagger points out that the dental office must enforce social distancing. The geometry of the offices at present may not be large enough to maintain adequate distance.  have to change, to avoid close contact between patients; appointments may need to be staggered. 

Sourcing PPE of the right kind and quality is another challenge that dental offices are likely to face. Dr. Le, who has been unable to get all PPE from his own supplier, currently relies on a pharmacy to provide him with what he needs. “We have had to come up with creative solutions,” adds Ms. Russell. These ‘creative’ solutions have even included sourcing disposable shirts from a farming supply company!

Our dental professionals remain optimistic about keeping their doors open. “If patients are comfortable with us, and the way the practice is run, they will come”, says Dr. Le. 

All in all, all our dental professionals agree on one thing – teamwork and healthy, regular communication between team members will be the key to getting through the pandemic. “We’re battling another pandemic – the Pandemic of Fear” says Dr. Mazahreh. “The measures that we adopt should be designed to make the team feel comfortable and safe in doing what they have to do”. 

Keep up with solutions to get your dental practice through the COVID-19 crisis!

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