The world is striving every day to educate and protect humanity from covid19 with the help of organizations, health workers, and volunteers. Countries are forcing social distancing and screening to isolate the infected from the uninfected. These efforts have been going on from the past few months.
As many countries are almost getting the pandemic under control, we still have a very long way to go before we can say everything is under control. People are helping and supporting to their extend, but the big fat question still smothers our brains:
When will things finally get back to NORMAL ?
This question cannot be dealt with a one word answer. Let’s look at it in a different perspective.
Things may never return to normal as they were before — and that’s OK!
As health care providers, it is our job to improve. It’s our job to innovate. It’s our job to create a new normal that makes us and our patients safer.
Do you know something? We, Dentists, have done this before.
There was a time in the evolution of Dentistry, where Personal Protection and Patient Protection was not of such high standards. There were Dentists who practiced without gloves, without a mask and without glasses, mixed amalgam with bare fingers, took X-rays without protective lead aprons. In some cases, instruments weren’t sterilized between patients. This may seem abhorrent today, but it’s just the way things were done at that time.
The Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSHA) was passed in 1970, but the safety in dentistry had no considerable changes until the onset of the HIV/AIDS crisis in the 1980s. The stigma and health concerns surrounding HIV/AIDS disrupted the health sector and a rapid change was observed in lifestyle unlike ever before. Almost overnight, universal precautions were established and dental practices had to improve preventive measures for the sake of patients, doctors, and staff.
Every dentist now wears gloves and masks. Every patient is given protective eye wears and disposable aprons. Lead gowns are used by patients and dentists during X rays. Each operatory is thoroughly sprayed and wiped down with medical-grade disinfectants between appointments. Instruments are heat sterilized and packed seperately after each use.
Nearly 40 years after the onset of HIV/AIDS, dentistry finds itself in a similar position today with the COVID-19 pandemic. As the previous crisis made us responsible dentists, and we didn’t go back to practicing without gloves and masks, I believe it is foolish for dentists to assume things will go back to normal when dental offices are allowed to reopen post COVID19.
Recent studies suggest that dentistry is ranked as one of the high-risk professions to contract COVID-19 due to the high exposure to aerosols generated in a dental office during a procedure. After looking into these studies, I often find myself thinking, “Why weren’t we concerned about this before the COVID19?”
Just like the HIV/AIDS crisis forced us to opt for new preventive measures and protections against blood-borne pathogens, the coronavirus is forcing us to look at aerosols and air quality in a way we have never before. Having a large amount of information about this crisis and how to face it, it’s our obligation to change. Although these changes will be made in response to COVID19, the benefits will likely extend far beyond the reach of this current pandemic.
Unfortunately, we still do not have a clear cut protocol to adopt. These may include N95 masks, external suctions, respirators, HEPA air filters, or negative pressure rooms! As researches extend to this field, the solution to limiting our aerosol production will likely be multi-fold.
Right now, there are many unknowns. The Social Media is bombarding us with new untested products everyday, whose efficacy remains unknown. Although we may not be able to commit to one solution at this time, it is important that we do commit to change. If we take the right steps now, then dentistry will change for the better. There will be growing pains as we adapt to a new way of practicing, but these changes will be universally good in the long-run.
We now think, “I can’t believe they practiced without gloves,” about the pre-HIV/AIDS crisis practices. The future dentists will look back and think, “Can you believe that dentists used to practice without aerosol controls?”
Just like how dentistry evolved after the HIV/AIDS crisis, Let’s hope that we can move this profession past COVID-19 and into a new normal that is safer for us and for our patients.
Check out a few measures you can adopt now in the Post COVID19 period: Click Below
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