May 12, 2020 • Jo-Anne Jones, RDH • Compliments of OralHealth Group
Dentistry is a very socially interactive profession. COVID-19 has changed our abilities to interact completely. Never in our wildest dreams would any of us ever predicted to be in this circumstance today. It would be impossible to predict exactly how this will impact dentistry, but one thing we know for sure is that it will change us.
In our world of dentistry, we have several “touch points” throughout the day to interact and care for one another. This is our profession; this is what we thrive on. This is who we are and are proud to be. Today, and certainly not forever, this is all gone. We need to, as integral members of the regulated healthcare professions, rise up and maintain contact through social distance for the sake of our patients, our teams, our businesses and our own mental health. This is critical and it is doable.
There are several ways in which we may engage in meaningful interaction with one another. Regular contact with our team members is vital to giving our lives purpose and a sense of normalcy. The time on our hands provides us with a wonderful opportunity to be educated as a team, to evaluate our systems and ensure we are following current guidelines. This opportunity is a gift and something we rarely have time for in our busy clinical schedules.
Our websites and social media channels can be ways in which we remain in contact with our patients. Posting information that will help them sustain their oral health at home in the absence of regular care is so important. For instance, April is Oral Cancer Awareness Month. Teach your patients how to check their mouth at home for the early signs of oral cancer through the “Check Your Mouth” website: checkyourmouth.org. Light heartedness is also a gift we may give at this time. It is not frivolous or foolish to maintain a sense of humour at a time when we feel fearful; it is a necessity.
Keeping in contact with our team members through online meeting platforms such as ZOOM provides us with connection. We must guard our emotional and mental health at this time. We may be unaware as to how self-isolation may be affecting a team member and in particular one who lives alone or is isolating with a partner in a difficult relationship. We must give one another hope and a strong sense of a future.
We also need to consider our patients such as the one who may be experiencing a dental issue. These concerns can be daunting and may just be the tipping point. As a dental professional we often know the exact etiology the moment we glance inside the oral cavity or hear the symptoms described. So how do we maintain social distance and yet alleviate the anxiety our dental patients may be experiencing?
The answer is one word: Teledentistry. Telemedicine and Teledentistry will be the future. COVID-19 has just advanced these two platforms ahead of their anticipated debut. The future is NOW. Case in point, my husband was contacted by his dermatologist and informed that the practice would be closed during the COVID-19 pandemic. Permission has been provided to share this story as it had such a profound impact. A request was then received to send in any photos of areas that were of concern via email. He has a history of basal cell carcinoma and was on a six-month recall for ongoing assessments. The photos were captured with TELScope, an intraoral telehealth examination device and accompanying.
Refer to Figure 1 to view one of the photos submitted. A call was set up the next day, the dermatologist had reviewed the images and confirmed that there were no areas he had any concern over. A follow up appointment was scheduled a few months later when predictably the COVID-19 pandemic would have resolved. The result: my husband’s concerns were diminished and put to rest and he felt connectivity with the practice. There also is the strong result of sustaining a passive revenue stream amidst this crisis.
Check out the rest of this article and all the notes and links at the OralHealth Group website.