The impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic are not limited to the mortality or death of people infected by the virus. It also extends to several aspects of our lives, which can permanently alter how we conduct most life activities and introduce new processes and developments. Other sectors apart from health are affected by the pandemic, including the industrial sector, tourism, and education. The COVID-19 Pandemic presented huge challenges to all stakeholders in the educational field, including lecturers, students, leaders, and staff of institutions.
In the field of dentistry, dentists and dental staff are at a heightened risk of airborne infections as they are exposed to high levels of droplets and aerosols produced during some dental procedures. During the pandemic, new guidelines were implemented to protect them and the patients from the risk of virus transmission. Teledentistry also became more widely accepted to address oral and dental health issues during COVID-19. The emergence of remote means of providing dental services altered not only the delivery of care but also the education and research training of dental health professionals. In a review published in the National Center for Biotechnology Information, the researchers shed light on the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on dentistry and dental education. This article will provide you with a summary of several review highlights.
Health workers are particularly exposed to a higher risk of contracting the COVID-19 virus. Among medical practitioners, dentists and dental staff are more prone to be infected with airborne pathogens such as SARS-CoV-2. Virus transmission as dentists conducts specific treatments may happen from inhaling droplets and aerosols from an infected individual or by direct contact with mucous membranes, oral fluids, and contaminated instruments or surfaces.
A study suggested that dentistry might be among the professions with the highest COVID-19 pandemic-related deaths since the virus is primarily spread through droplets and aerosols. But this claim may differ from other studies where there is no evidence of higher mortality among dentists caused by COVID-19, which led to the conclusion that this might be due to the rigorous safety protocols implemented.
Other systems were also introduced in the field of dentistry in an attempt to minimize bacterial load during dental procedures or limit interaction for dental services that do not necessarily require physical interactions. The new approaches introduced in the field of dentistry will potentially alter dental practices and education.
A new approach to dental healthcare was introduced or became more widely accepted since the COVID-19 virus outbreak to prevent it from spreading further. This new approach pertains to Teledentistry, defined as the remote practice of dentistry by oral health professionals through information and communication technology. Teledentistry’s objectives include diagnosis, prevention, post-treatment monitoring, specialist advice, treatment, prescription, referrals, and other practices.
Apart from the adoption of Teledentistry, almost 80% of dentists have adopted several recommended precautionary measures and altered them according to the type and requirements of each dental procedure. To further increase safety at work, some dentists wore additional protective equipment and adopted sanitation, ventilation, and preventive measures beyond the recommended safety guidelines. In summary, these efforts demonstrate how COVID-19 paved the adoption of new measures in dental offices, which enhances the safety of the dentist, dental staff, and patients and minimizes the risk of virus transmission.
Public health issues related to dental aspects during the COVID-19 pandemic involve heightened levels of stress and anxiety among dentists due to the rapid spread of the COVID-19 virus and the need for a quick adaptation to new health and safety standards in the dental offices, according to a study. The study also demonstrated that there was a state of normalcy in dental practices after the initial stage of COVID-19 pandemic. Several dentists adopted the recommended preventive measures and safety protocols to return to operation.
However, some dental places couldn’t withstand the pandemic’s changes, which incurred significant financial losses to the said dental offices. According to a survey from the British Dental Association, 70% of dental clinics reported that they could only remain to operate and maintain their usual number of employees for up to three months. It shows that although several dentists could continue their operations, the pandemic hindered some dental practices.
A recent study emphasized the differences between the procedures carried out before and after the epidemic. These include the dramatic increase in the percentage of surgical procedures during the COVID-19 pandemic and the increased number of procedures per visit after the following months. There were also recommended changes when performing various treatment procedures, including:
Simultaneously, there was a rise in the use of certain treatments, such as indirect capping, atraumatic restorative treatment, provisional therapeutic restorations, the Hall technique, and the use of diamine silver fluoride, to reduce viral propagation and infection.
During the COVID-19 Pandemic, Telemedecine was an effective tool in minimizing some of the effects caused by the implementation of certain restrictions. However, several researchers stated that the lack of uniformity in implementing telemedicine as a means of continuing medical education despite the restrictions is one cause for the absence of uniform protocols for aerosol-generating procedures.
In dental school, there has been an increase in the use of Teledentistry during the pandemic. Despite the differences in the implementation of isolation policies among regions, the seriousness of the implications brought by the pandemic, including the availability of resources, have vastly affected dental schools’ functions.
Some facts in the utilization of telemedicine amidst the COVID-19 pandemic include:
Although there is still a lot to accomplish in determining patient compliance and the doctor’s attitude toward merging remote dentistry with the standard protocols of telemedicine, its potential to improve dental care and education is undeniable.
The COVID-19 pandemic significantly impacted health professionals working in dentistry, which affected the quality of medical services. The risks associated with working in an environment exposed to viruses and infections, family responsibilities, and financial burdens brought by the pandemic contributed to the stress and anxiety levels of most dental staff or people in the medical field.
This urged the implementation of measures that can help prevent and treat the said issues. Despite the differences in the application of working protocols for protection, the emphasis has been on minimizing the use of aerosol-generating procedures in public and private health sectors.
Trust and safety within medical teams were improved by providing protective equipment for dental teams, suitable procedures, and proper management of patients. A study also stated that dentists were equipped with satisfactory knowledge on COVID-19 prevention, but there is still room for further improvement in implementing infection control measures.
Similar to what has been mentioned by several researchers, the COVID-19 pandemic significantly impacted dental education. This encompasses impacts on emotional aspects, dental education quality, and dental research.
In terms of emotional and psychological aspects;
In terms of dental education quality;
In terms of dental research;
Examining these implications is necessary to develop measures and policies to minimize the impacts on future dentists and dental research and improve the quality of dental education.
The COVID-19 pandemic significantly impacted dental professionals, academic staff, dental students, and researchers by limiting treatment, clinical practice, and practicum standards. During the Pandemic, Teledentistry has emerged as an important means of reducing the risks of the COVID-19 virus spreading despite its drawbacks. By overcoming the adoption barriers and enhancing patient and management tools through new advancements and innovations in dental equipment to reduce aerosol-transmitted virus. The dental field will undoubtedly be better able to withstand the negative effects of pandemics even in the future.
Goriuc, A., Sandu, D., Tatarciuc, M., & Luchian, I. (2022). The Impact of the COVID-19 Pandemic on Dentistry and Dental Education: A Narrative Review. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, 19(5), 2537. https://doi.org/10.3390/ijerph19052537