Dr. Richard Lee Kin, Periodontist
“There are decades when nothing happens, and there are weeks when decades happen.” — Lenin
As I write, dentists across Ireland are either closed or open for emergencies only and for those brave dentists that are – I have my reservations as to how long they can. All over Europe and elsewhere, dentists are being instructed to stop carrying out routine treatment and avoid aerosol-producing procedures. It is likely that all dentistry will cease in dental clinics & emergency cases referred to designated dental hubs throughout Ireland
Well, firstly it’s hard to maintain social distancing if we are working in someone’s mouth!
And yes, we take universal precautions, but in the face of this virus, those measures are very unlikely to be effective enough. Dentists are also exposed to a much greater viral load due to this intimate close contact.
Most dental procedures generate an Aerosol or spray. Once this coronavirus is released in an aerosol form, it can persist & contaminate the air for up to three hours. It can survive on hard surfaces for up to three days. Then you walk in next (and my team and I probably get infected too, and bring it home to our families as well)
What about treating patients with no symptoms?
This virus is likely shed even when the patient is asymptomatic, so we need to suspect everyone. When we do treat emergencies, Personal Protective Equipment is mandatory & few have this. Those that don’t are risking the health and safety of everyone.
Are dental businesses feeling the impact?
The business of dentistry is expensive. Like many self – employed businesses, there is now no incoming revenue yet large outflows continue inexorably. Equipment, staff costs and overheads make it a profession that is very vulnerable in this crisis. In the UK, a corporate dental clinic went into administration, many have been made redundant. This is only the beginning & without significant state intervention, many clinics here will not survive.
What can we expect in the future?
We must be hopeful – the health of the Irish population is the priority right now and our frontline healthcare colleagues must be supported in every way possible. Many dentists have already signed up to help them.
However, in a best-case scenario, even If Ireland experiences a sharp inverse v recovery, for dentists – the future is bleak. We are very different to most businesses. As there is so much we don’t know about this virus – there is a lot of unknown unknowns. For example, how safe is a patient after having been exposed to the virus? And what measures do we take in a post – covid 19 environment?
There will a lot of work to do and while society returns to a new normal – the profession of dentistry will take much longer to recover. Time will tell.
Dr . Richard Lee Kin
B.Dent.,Sc.,, F.D.S.R.C.S.I., D.CH.DENT (PERIO) , EFP
Practice limited to Periodontology & Implant dentistry
56 Adelaide rd.,
PH: 01 – 6789904