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A peer-reviewed journal that offers evidence-based clinical information and continuing education for dentists.

Make the Best of the COVID-19 Pandemic

 The coronavirus has won the first battle, but not the war.  

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The coronavirus has won the first battle, but not the war.

While it is tempting to speculate where we would be if Chinese authorities had responded to the initial outbreak in a more timely fashion, the fact remains the U.S. government was not prepared for this pandemic. Too few test kits, too few respirators, and too few hospital beds. This has forced the government to try to limit the number of infections in the first few weeks of the outbreak. This does not mean fewer people will become infected, just that there is less chance of overwhelming the health care system.

The consequences of this approach could well mean the disease will be with us longer as a result of flattening the curve of infections. In addition to reducing overuse of hospital facilities and medical practitioners, this also allows time for production of more test kits and personal protective equipment. There is also a possibility a vaccine will be developed —although it is more likely medications used for other diseases will be found helpful in treating this virus.

Obviously, the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on the dental industry have been devastating. Even in its early stages, there have been mass office shutdowns, accompanied by staff layoffs. Every provider has been affected in some way, at the office, at home, or by the stock market’s rapid decline.

While it is difficult to predict what will happen to the dental profession as a result of these short-term problems, certain events are bound to occur. Among them will be bankruptcy filings, especially by dentists in private practice. This will no doubt lead to an increase in the number of practitioners working for third parties when patients decide it is safe to go back to the dentist. In our litigious society, it is also possible lawsuits may arise from spreading COVID-19 after treating individuals with the virus. And once practice resumes, there will be an ongoing struggle to convince patients the probability of further disease transmission through treatment is minimal.

In the meantime, oral health professionals should remember this pandemic will pass. It is important to protect your family and yourself. Stay engaged and productive, exercise, clean up your office and get rid of the patient files that have been on the back shelf for 15 years. Keep as many of your staff as possible for as long as possible, and when that is no longer feasible, stay in contact. Look at your economic situation. If possible, give those you must let go some type of severance package, and encourage them to find third party economic help if possible. On the clinical level, use this time to improve your knowledge and skills. Stay in touch with your patients to let them know what you’re doing to make the office safe for their return.

Above all, stay positive. Dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic will not be easy, but it will not last forever. Savvy clinicians will use this unexpected downtime in positive ways, with the goals of coming out of this in better health, and with a more effective chairside manner and improved clinical skills.

Thomas G. Wilson Jr., DDS

Editor in Chief

[email protected]

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From Decisions in Dentistry. April 2020;6(4):6.

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