With more debt and typically lower incomes, new dentists have unique challenges and outlooks during the crisis.
The New Dentist News asked six dentists around the country to share their thoughts and answer two questions:
• What are you looking most forward to after the COVID-19 crisis is over?
• What changes in dentistry do you see occurring as a result of the pandemic?
I look forward to having family gatherings once again, and maybe even hosting block parties, cooking out and inviting neighbors over to share a meal. Also, my wife and I are simply looking forward to getting back to outdoors projects, gardening with friends, kayaking, camping and hiking! On the dentistry side of things, God has used this time to ignite high hopes for me to get right back to work but back to the "right" work.
We will find patients especially interested in what we're doing to minimize the risk of them contracting the coronavirus at our practice. I could definitely be very wrong but I wonder if after COVID-19 the public may be a lot more money-conscious and hesitant to spend their remaining money at the dentist. Lastly, it seems that teledentistry is really taking off and we're going to see it more and more in dentistry.
I am mostly looking forward to interacting with my patients and providing them with quality dental care. I have also been working on new business practices that I plan on implementing once this crisis is over. In my personal life, I can't wait to go to the gym, travel and go to the park and read.
Because of this pandemic, dentists and team members have been more cognizant of the type of PPE required, as well as the extra precautions necessary to better protect themselves against airborne pathogens. I believe that there will be changes, from an increase in the number of air filtration systems in dental offices to an increase in the use of rubber dams for procedures. Due to financial constraints, patients could less likely take time off for routine dental visits and may be less likely to pay for cosmetic procedures.
I am most looking forward to a return to a normal routine and seeing our patients. The relationships we have with them are what make our dental practice the fulfilling and enjoyable place that it is for us. I would be lying if I said I wasn't also looking forward to the return of sports as well. Not being able to end my days watching Atlanta Braves games has been a strange reality for me this time of year.
One thing we have being doing while seeing emergencies is a text message-based check-in. This may be something we consider for our high-risk patients with co-morbidities where they text us upon arrival to the office, and then we let them know when we are ready to bring them back. I think embracing small changes will help to decrease risk and show patients we are committed to the highest levels of infection control protocol, universal precautions and safety.
I practice in a small town where we have built personal relationships with our patients and run into them on a regular basis outside of the office. We have been checking in with them over the phone, but to actually see their smiling faces will be wonderful! Personally, I'm looking forward to catching up with our extended family and friends at summer gatherings — in groups of more than 10.
Prior to reopening, new PPE recommendations and office policy changes will be discussed with staff team members. After the reopen, we are preparing to spend extra time with patients discussing the office changes, patient concerns, and maintaining trust by reassuring our patients that we are following the most updated recommendations to keep them safe.
Being a pediatric dentist, I am an advocate for preventive dentistry and a proponent of minimally invasive dentistry. I am hoping more patients will realize the importance of simple procedures like regular checkups and getting a cavity restored before it becomes symptomatic. I hope patients seek dental care for preventive procedures rather than treatment only.
I envision more dentists offering less invasive treatment alternatives, and I believe teledentistry is going to become more popular for some procedures, especially to improve access-to-care in rural areas.
Looking forward to outdoor activities with my family, and professionally being able to treat all patients with confidence of not catching or passing a life-threatening virus.
Cosmetic care may drop in the short-term immediate future, and practitioners may be forced to work longer hours, treat more patients, just to make up for lost income. There is also the fact that job security will come into question for all members (hygiene, assistant, front desk, doctor) of the dental field.