The COVID-19 pandemic has hugely impacted the dental industry, which has been felt significantly over the past two years. The initial lockdown in March 2020 led to a drop in revenue. This is because dentists were unable to practice during this time. However, as we approach nearly two years of living with the pandemic, it’s been shown that dentistry is an essential service, and practices have been able to remain open despite additional lockdowns across the country.
Dr. Kami Hoss, a dentist from San Diego, California, understands that dentists have changed how they operate because of COVID-19. For instance, many offices have had to shut down completely. However, many dentists expect their revenue to go back up this year. Dentists are still providing services, but they may need to change how they do things.
The COVID-19 pandemic has had a significant impact on the dental industry. Our survey shows that dentists have found ways to adapt and succeed despite this. Over one-third of dentists have felt prepared to go into the second wave, continuing the protocols that have been learned over the last year. We encourage you to continue monitoring your PPE stock, being diligent in your IPAC protocols, and making necessary financial changes to continue persevering.
The Patient Safety Challenges
Dr. Kami Hoss and other dental professionals are very familiar with occupational health issues and corresponding risk assessments to reduce risk and apply Standard Precautions for minimizing the spread of the infection directly or through cross-contamination.
COVID-19’s incubation period can range from 2-14 days (median, four days). While the virus is highly transmissible when most symptomatic patients, transmission can occur before any symptoms are apparent.
As the Covid-19 pandemic continues to spread, many dental professionals wonder how it will impact their industry. The good news is that, so far, the impact has been relatively minor. However, it’s important to be prepared for potential changes in the coming months.
For patients, one of the biggest concerns may be whether or not they can still go to the dentist. The good news is that most dental offices are currently open and are accepting patients. However, Dr. Kami Hoss advises that if you feel sick or have been exposed to Covid-19, it is best to stay home and avoid contact with other people.
Current guidelines recommend that elective care for dental patients with confirmed or suspected COVID-19 be deferred until the patient meets the criteria for discontinuation of home isolation. Dr. Kami Hoss understands that patients with confirmed or suspected COVID-19 need emergency or urgent dental care. Various treatment guidelines have been developed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the American Dental Association (ADA), Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) to prevent the spread of infection. Dentists should consult with local and state health officials to determine the most current guidelines for their area.
Dental providers are advised to:
- Limit the number of dental healthcare providers present during a procedure.
- Visitors should be limited to those who are necessary.
- Use a dental handpiece with anti-retraction, four-handed dentistry, high evacuation suction, and rubber dams to minimize droplet splatter and aerosol generation.
- Minimize the use of ultrasonic instruments.
- Perform endodontic procedures with dilute (1%) sodium hypochlorite solutions to extend supplies without adverse outcomes.
- Use resorbable sutures to eliminate the need for a follow-up appointment.
- Disinfect surfaces with EPA-approved chemicals and maintain a dry environment.
- Wear an N95 or equivalent or higher-level respirator and a gown.
COVID-19 has led to some challenges for the dental industry. COVID-19 has caused many people to fear that someone may contact droplets of saliva or blood during a dental procedure that could spread the virus. Since most offices don’t have an AIIR, this can lead to patients’ fears coming true.
Large dental organizations may have offices clustered together without barriers, so patients may be worried about someone spreading their droplets on another patient’s chair. As an alternative, the CDC recommends placing a portable HEPA air filtration unit near the patient’s chair but never behind it. This way, if there are any concerns with droplets falling on other chairs, they will not go far and will be easily cleaned.
Access for Patients Needing Oral Care
One of the biggest concerns for those needing dental care is access. For most people, going to the dentist is not a top priority. However, for those who are elderly, have a compromised immune system, or cannot take care of their oral health on their own, not seeing the dentist can be detrimental to their overall health.
Governments and private organizations are doing what they can to ensure that people still have access to dental care. In the United States, the military is offering free dental services for active-duty service members and their families. The ADA has also partnered with Remote Area Medical (RAM) to provide free dental services in underserved areas.
COVID-19 has caused many issues for the dental industry. Access to oral healthcare is limited, and strict guidelines need to be followed when treating someone with COVID-19. There are many uncertainties about how things will work out in the future, but hopefully, dentists will provide care for those who need it most.