Adjusting to Today’s ‘New Normal’
Kudos to Decisions in Dentistry and especially Executive Editor Kristen Machado for the daily COVID-19 enewsletters that have been a great source of information.
In Texas where I live, our governor recently authorized the reopening of select businesses following the COVID-19 shutdown; initially, dentistry was not among them. At the urging of the Texas Dental Association, these restrictions were eventually lifted. Until that point, our periodontal office had only been seeing emergency patients, but had been keeping abreast of the edicts of various agencies regarding the modifications needed to reopen. It quickly became apparent there was little agreement among these agencies. This led to a Zoom discussion with our study club on which guidelines to follow. One of the main problems cited by our study club members was the ever-changing set of regulations. It appears when the federal government decided to reopen the economy, these agencies rewrote the rules to address the shortages of N95 respirators, face shields and such, as well as recommendations to modify offices to provide sealed operatories.
We were lucky. Most of our operatories had doors and could be sealed, and those that could not were fitted with doors. This allowed us to install a negative airflow system — a luxury many will find unattainable. Along with everyone else, we struggled to find the appropriate personal protective equipment. Our office installed barriers and signs to promote social distancing. We also trained our staff on the new guidelines, and produced manuals on the updated protocols.
THE REALITY IS WE WILL SEE FEWER PATIENTS AT GREATER EXPENSE. BEYOND THAT, THE FUTURE IS HARD TO PREDICT
Obviously, this all costs money. To wit, my wife spent countless hours online and on the phone to secure a (hopefully forgivable) government loan. We also found a new bank that would allow us a chance for funding. Many signed documents later, we were funded. Kudos to Decisions in Dentistry and especially Executive Editor Kristen Machado for the daily COVID-19 enewsletters (DecisionsInDentistry.com/covid-19) that have been a great source of information.
So, where does this leave us? The reality is we will see fewer patients at greater expense. Beyond that, the future is hard to predict. It should be assumed the new guidelines are here to stay and will evolve as more data become available. If one believes in the value of science, either a vaccine or appropriate medications — or both — will be developed. But, until then, pandemics are a fact of life — and this one has forever changed our approach to treatment. The key to safe care is to remain vigilant, informed and flexible, and quickly adapt to the realities of today’s practice.
Thomas G. Wilson Jr., DDS
Editor in Chief
From Decisions in Dentistry. June 2020;6(6):6.