Challenges Faced by Dental Practitioners During COVID-19

Challenges Faced by Dental Practitioners During COVID-19

The COVID-19 virus breakout resulted in the closing of many businesses including dental practices. Like most people, dental practitioners did not anticipate the pandemic lasting for a full year.

One of the challenges that were faced by dental practitioners is the 30 minute waiting period in between patients. The World Health Organization made a recommendation based on clinical findings that it would take about 30 minutes to fully prepare the dental chair for the next patient.


The donning and doffing process, disinfecting, and setting up sterile instruments during COVID-19 consumes more time because more infection control barriers need to be put in place to protect the dentist and the patients. The cost of personal protective equipment and wear increased. Most suppliers have increased the retailing amount for masks and gloves, which are standard requirements in treating patients.


Dentists were forced by the pandemic to just purchase these at that high rate. Before the pandemic, dental practitioners treated patients wearing scrubs. Due to how the virus spreads, dentists are now also forced to treat patients wearing clean sterile aprons, which are adding to the PPE costs. Since the outbreak of this virus, there is low patient flow in practices due to fear of contracting the virus. According to World Health Organization, the virus is more likely to spread in a dental setup as compared to many other settings because it spreads through saliva droplets and aerosols.


An exceptional dental practitioner treats the patient holistically and not just focuses on the mouth and teeth. COVID-19  has taken that from patients and dentists. Dentists are required to wear the N95 mask, the surgical mask and a visor. This makes it hard to communicate with patients. When giving oral hygiene education it appears as if the dental practitioner is screaming at the patient to just be audible.


Every patient is also treated as if they have COVID-19  meaning that there are no hugs or handshakes before and after treatment. There is relatively higher absenteeism in dental staff. Any sign of fever, chest pain, dry cough or body aches could signal COVID-19 and the best thing to do is to stay home, isolate and test. Companies that can provide services virtually or electronically slightly had an advantage over the pandemic.


In dentistry, all treatment done on patients is done on the chair unless it is just a consultation. Personnel who are home can hardly do much work from home for the practice. Tele-dentistry is a new topic for all dental practitioners, however there is limited research on how to navigate it and is not a covered topic in dental school. Dental practitioners are forced by the pandemic to adapt and find creative ways to practice dentistry by making use of video calls and phone calls. It has been quite a challenge navigating the billing system for the practice of tele dentistry.


All these challenges lead to practices closing, retrenching staff or decreased salaries. Dental staff had anxiety about either losing their job or a decrease in their salary. On a lighter note, many other practices are now running and using strategies such as sending communication constantly to motivate their patients to visit the practice and making videos of how they keep their setting sterile to reassure the patients. As hard as this pandemic knocked everyone, many dentists are fighting against all odds to keep their practices alive.


The practices advised that the pandemic had initially negatively impacted their day-to-day functions. During the national level 5 lockdown restrictions, the limitations had made a financial impact in terms of restricting practices to have emergency treatments only. Their client base had reduced drastically in the process. When the country had loosened restrictions, the dentists were allowed to assist with additional treatments. This assisted the practice to gain business, however, the patients were still sceptical to visit the practices due to the risk of being infected.


The content above has compiled in collaboration with Affinity Dental’s partner, DRC.
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