The View From Inside

An “insider’s view” is supposed to be valuable.  However, “you can’t read the label from inside the jar,” as the wise saying goes.

The pandemic has placed us all in the jar, so to speak.  We yearn for perspective, but we don’t know what we don’t know.  Through it all, we have marvelously adapted.  There are countless new protocols in dental offices, and patients have, for the most part, admirably adjusted. 

The Covid crisis is the most significant disruption to daily life and security since World War II.  The very act of coping causes us stress.  One day, we will look back and gain perspective on how our world of certainty was thrown off its axis but still managed to right itself.  For now, we soldier on.

For years we tried to educate those patients who had only sporadic contact with the dental profession.  We wanted to bring them in, show them all that modern dentistry has to offer, and turn them into high dental IQ patients who take responsibility for their oral health and consequently also garner general health benefits.

It turns out that there was a larger cohort, those loyal patients of record who would not be denied dental care.  They could not wait for offices to re-open; schedules filled quickly as patients rushed back to dental offices.

As dental practices work through the backlog of pent-up demand, the time is now to plan for the future.  The post-pandemic dental practice needs to rebrand itself.  Patients now have a better understanding of dentistry as an overall healthcare service.  Practices need to build on that understanding and redouble marketing and education efforts.

The future of dentistry is bright, but it will not write itself.  It’s time to think about emerging from the jar, surveying the landscape, and planning for success throughout the rest of this year and into the next.

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United We Stand

The dental professional is waging a ferocious war against COVID-19, the invisible enemy.  To prepare for battle, dental professionals have Zoomed, webinared, phoned, e-mailed, texted, talked, reflected, discussed, shared, learned, and shopped. To reopen, dental practices have masked, barriered, digitized, cleaned, covered, sprayed, wiped, sanitized, decontaminated, autoclaved, air purified, suctioned, UVed, and fogged. 

Patients are held in their cars or hallways, the wonderfully euphemistic “virtual waiting room,” until those other potential virus-carrying patients are gone, then ushered in to be greeted by the administrative team through plexiglass and/or masks and face shields to be temperature checked and health questioned.  Patients are asked to wash their hands, and in some cases also instructed to rinse their mouths and don disposable protective gear just for them. 

In treatment rooms patients encounter a clinical team in full COVID-19 PPE regalia who look like Neil and Buzz on the surface of the moon, triumphant in a hostile environment.

For years we talked about educating patients and explaining treatment.  The pandemic has reminded us that there is a cohort of patients who are committed to optimal oral health.  They demand dental care; they hold dental professionals in high regard; and they appreciate all the extraordinary measures taken to keep them safe.

Given the dental profession’s outstanding track record of protecting patients, their team and themselves from cross contamination due to H1N1, HIV/AIDS, SARS, MERS, and other pathogens, the public can rest assured that dentists will never be satisfied in their quest to provide quality care in the safest possible environment.  When dentists cannot jam one more piece of anti-viral equipment into a treatment room, they still ask, “Are we doing enough?” 

The virus is a formidable enemy, but it does not stand a chance of getting between dental professionals and their patients.