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MyView: The value of organized dentistry during a pandemic

May 04, 2020

Dental professionals enter the workforce with formal education, skilled techniques and ambition to keep their community healthy. We are fortunate to build relationships with our patients and colleagues, emphasize the importance of preventative dental health, and help, heal and restore when necessary. Beginning a career in dentistry and opening a practice with the backing and guidance of a professional organization is invaluable for advice and collaboration. I first saw the value of this as a dental student when I became involved in the American Student Dental Association in 1999. ASDA is an organization that offers resources spanning from scholarship to leadership experience to overall wellness as a clinician. Over the years as a pediatric dentist and a practice owner, I have appreciated the American Dental Association for its advocacy and efforts to create an organized and ethical community of dentists. Organized dentistry has always been essential, from guidelines to practice support. Now more than ever, my colleagues and I have looked to the ADA for direction in these recent, unprecedented times.

This novel virus strain of coronavirus, commonly known as COVID-19 has put our entire society, including businesses, in a position of vulnerability. There are many unknown variables to COVID-19 as it continues to keep the world on edge, forcing every industry to new standards that evolve daily. From a dental perspective, COVID-19 has changed how practices strategize and how we see and treat our patients. As health care providers, we understand the importance of slowing the spread of this virus in our community and flattening the curve, especially for our colleagues who are on the frontline. Each of these adjustments is a challenge individually and tackling all of them combined would seem nearly impossible without established practices and superior resources the tripartite ADA provides.

Small businesses are the fabric of the American economy, and reliable information and communication are vital. The ADA has always been an organization a dentist could rely on for practice guidelines and a broad range of support and expertise. Today, more than ever, the ADA is an invaluable organization we rely on to make daily decisions about our practice and patients.

Many practitioners do not have a team of independent experts advising them through this challenging time. Some may not have a human resources department to advise on employee relations or the possibility of furloughs and layoffs. Additional legal support has been a necessity in interpreting and implementing new laws such as the Families First Coronavirus Response Act that provides paid sick leave and paid emergency family medical leave to employees affected by COVID-19. The Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act provides multiple resources to businesses, specifically the Paycheck Protection Program and loan forgiveness to qualified expenses, even more resources for displaced workers by providing a robust unemployment insurance program benefit and additional financial support in the form of a rebate for qualified taxpayers.

Many of these topics are foreign to even the most business-savvy dental professionals; however, the tripartite can and has helped us steer efforts in the right direction.

Early into this pandemic, dental practices were phased from fully functioning operations to emergent cases only overnight. The tripartite offered clear direction in discerning which patient needs are essential and emergent.

The association has doubled down on its valuable guidance by clearly and definitively setting terms for these instances and setting standards for infection control, engineering and controlling safe work practices for dental teams, and contingency planning.

Throughout my career, I have appreciated and benefited from all the ADA has to offer. The COVID-19 pandemic has further reinforced the importance of the communication, foundational support, and structure the association provides.

Recent events have highlighted its benefits, and we have seen firsthand the vital role of having an organized, professional community in place.

Now more than ever, I have found encouragement in watching my ADA community and colleagues work together as we speak as one voice to do our part for dentistry and humanity.

Michael LeBlanc, D.D.S. 

Dr. LeBlanc co-owns and practices at five locations in the greater Kansas City area.