What is the best way to practice international dental hygiene during the COVID-19 pandemic?
Since dental professionals are uniquely vulnerable when it comes to the transmission of upper respiratory diseases, we are unsure about just how much risk to take on to help our patients.
Unexpected PPE Challenges
The last couple of weeks have been filled with staff meetings and discussions about what to do and when to call it quits.
For instance, our office and others faced, and are still facing, a critical shortage of masks and gloves. Then, as of Wednesday, 18 March, the Bavarian government announced the closure of all non-essential businesses. You can read more about that here.
Dental offices were not included in the mandate. So, we were left scratching our heads about how to proceed without a clear mandate.
Challenges For Dental Hygiene Procedures During COVID-19
Two days ago, a German hygienist started a petition to call for the closure of dental offices and their hygiene departments, except for “on-call” arrangements. We all clearly recognize our vulnerability.
If the petition and link are still active, you can find it (in German) here.
While many offices are still fully functioning, my doctor decided to close the hygiene department on Monday, 16 March, and limit his treatments to selective emergencies. Monday, March 16th, was my last day of work.
Aerosol Reduction Challenges During COVID-19
On that day, neither he nor the other dentist used any tools or instruments that produced aerosols. That meant no fillings or preps and people had to be turned away or cancelled. Everyone was understanding. I was limited to hand-scaling all of my patients. Thankfully, all of my patients were recall patients.
Most European offices do not have a central A/C system, so all our windows were opened to bring in fresh air. All patients pre-rinsed and we disinfected hands and all surfaces like crazy.
Challenges In The Waiting Rooms
As soon as they walked in, our patients were drilled on their current state of health, and the waiting room was aired out. We never got around to checking temps.
At one point, a patient who had recently arrived from Italy was sitting in the waiting room. My patient—who had been waiting there before he arrived—was clearly unnerved by having to share a space with him.
Most people don’t drive to their appointments, so in-car waiting rooms are not an option here. I don’t know how my patient knew that he was Italian and had recently arrived in Germany, but she gave me an earful as soon as she entered my operatory. This fear of the unknown is uncomfortable for everyone.
Widespread Unemployment To Become A New Reality
Our office is, for all intents and purposes, closed to patients. The German government is stepping in to subsidize our income at almost 70%, so at least we won’t starve.
However, we all know that it’s time to ‘batten down the hatches’ because this storm is just getting started. Let’s hope that Germany is ahead of the curve. At least for us in Bavaria, life as we know it will stop as of today, until further notice…