In the last year, Covid-19 has changed the way we live and no industry has been left untouched. The aviation industry is striving to survive as people say no to travel. Small businesses are forced to close their doors because they can’t open long enough to make cash flow. Banks are being pushed to the limit because people can’t afford to pay their credit lines. And the healthcare industry strives to keep up as it becomes overloaded with patients.
And as dentists, we may be afraid of what our own future holds.
So let’s talk about that. How has Covid-19 changed the dental industry and what does the future of dentistry look like?
The Current State of the Dental/Healthcare Industry
No one could have predicted that the Covid-19 pandemic was going to hit us, let alone hit us as hard as it did. And because it was unforeseen, no one was prepared for the devastating effects that it had. In regards to healthcare and dentistry industries, no one could have prepared dentists, hygienists, or students for the challenge that they now face. Here are 3 current challenges that are faced in the healthcare industry in relation to Covid 19:
1) Deceased use of services
When it comes to healthcare, emergency rooms and first-line healthcare workers are overrun with work as patients flock to the hospitals and walk-ins with Covid-19 symptoms. But in dental care, the opposite has happened. When Covid-19 first hit in March of 2020, the use of dental services dropped by over 75 percent. Much of this drop was attributed to the fact that dental practices were only open for emergency services, but it can also be attributed to the fact that many people were afraid to visit their dentist for fear of contracting the illness. Today in 2021, more people are starting to set appointments, but numbers are still drastically lower than pre-Covid times and the timeline for recovery is uncertain.
2) Procedures for Patient Safety
With Covid-19 still being a major cause of concern, healthcare and dental practices have had to update their procedures for patient and staff safety. In order to reduce risk and minimize the spread of infection, stringent guidelines have been placed in effect for healthcare workers. PPE has become the new catchphrase and in some cases, dental staff are now donning equipment that make them look like astronauts! For dental staff this means air purifers/HVAC updates following stringent hygiene and cleaning procedures, taking extraoral radiographs whenever possible, limiting the number of healthcare workers per patient, and removing waiting rooms. Of course, this is just a small sample of the many guidelines that are now in effect for the dental industry to prevent the spread of Covid-19.
3) Patient Access
Whether it be due to office closures, reluctance to visit a dentist or loss of dental coverage, there are many factors that are currently contributing to delayed dental care. At the current time, opportunities to engage in routine dental visits for preventative care are limited. Unfortunately, this means that many signs of dental decay or oral care concerns are missed, and people with severe pain or infections are instead visiting the emergency room. In most cases, however, emergency departments are not equipped to handle dental care concerns, and patients are being treated with temporary medications to reduce pain as opposed to receiving proper dental care.
What does the future hold for dentistry?
There’s no doubt that the healthcare and dental industries were hit hard by this deadly pandemic. The good news is, however, that contrary to what you might believe, there has been no discernible effect on earnings for dental practices as of yet. And while it’s impossible to predict the future, we are hopeful that as soon as the pandemic is over, people will once again be able to visit the dentist in a timely manner for both regular checkups and more serious concerns.
With that being said, there are some foreseeable changes that are likely to continue in the future. Extensive safety practices related to personal protective equipment and sanitary matters are likely to remain in the foreseeable future. Furthermore, we are likely to continue to see a rise in things like mobile delivery and telehealth.
Teledentistry, or the remote facilitating of dental treatment through technology, can include anything from remote consultations, to diagnosis, and patient monitoring. Of course, much dentistry will still require face-to-face contact, but the future does seem to be leading us down a path of innovative solutions to everyday dental concerns.
In conclusion, dental and healthcare practices are currently facing many challenges related to the Covid-19 pandemic. But the reality is, Covid-19 is unlikely to be going anywhere in the near future. So instead of looking at these challenges as a setback, it’s important that we embrace them and use them as an opportunity to merge new procedures with existing ones in order to propel the industry to new and exciting heights.