Australian dentists face bleak future as coronavirus restrictions hit level 3
The majority of dentists in Australia will be impacted and some could be permanently wiped out by the coronavirus suggests a leading Melbourne dental surgeon, Dr Yvonne King, as the Australian Dental Association announces level 3 restrictions on dental work.
‘A combination of fear, sky-rocketing costs, a disrupted supply and manufacturing chain, expensive and unutilised technology, and the closure of dental wholesale suppliers are creating a perfect storm which could the industry,’ said Dr King.
‘If we look at the cost of dental masks for example, they have gone from 9 cents a unit to a dollar. On top of that we have limited access to other Personal Protective Equipment like hand sanitisers, gloves, and alcohol wipes.’
In addition to supply side issues is a drop in consumer demand. Fear is a major contributor to people forestalling dental work, as is the announcement of level 3 restrictions by the Australian Dental Association.
‘There is confusion now about what is essential dental work and what’s not. Management of acute dental pain, trauma, treatment already started is allowed under these restrictions,’ said Dr King.
‘You can contract septicaemia, gingivitis, lose teeth, even jaw bone by putting off dental work. Your teeth need to last longer than the coronavirus and your tooth health is often related to other medical complications,’ said Dr King.
To reassure customers Dr King is transforming her practice and taking extraordinary measures, including ditching certain lasers that might create COVID-19 aerosols and opting for hand tools and specialist lasers to clean teeth.
Dr King has instituted a vigorous screening process which includes vetting clients over the phone, therma-testing their temperature in reception, removing magazines which might carry the virus, social distancing of furniture, hourly anti-bacterial wipedowns, and that’s before even entering the surgery.
Patients are given a 1 per cent hydrogen peroxide mouthwash to kill germs for two hours, staff are double masked, and hand tools or specialist diode lasers used.
‘We believe this should be standard practice across the dental industry and would like to see these measures to be made mandatory,’ said Dr King.
‘It’s about patient and staff safety first and foremost, but it’s also about protecting the industry and making sure that people understand what needs to be seen to right away and what can wait.’