By Yunong Sun - Dentistry Student
The outbreak of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) not only leads to a worldwide health crisis, but also shifts the fate of many traditional businesses that involve close-distant human interaction or human gathering activities, such as cinema, restaurant and clubs (Alter et al., 2020). It’s easy for some services to go human interaction free, like restaurants that can just focus on food delivery. However, for the medical field, especially the dentists, such adaptation could be difficult. Nevertheless, it seems that dental clinics have already come up with multiple equipment for working under COVID-19 condition. On the other hand, the idea of “teledentistry” has also become more popular recently, and it is well-applied due to this exclusive situation.
Although it is not encouraged to work with patients in close distance, for patients who need dental surgeries or emergency dental treatments, dentists have their own solutions. Many dental clinics were re-opened in the middle of May 2020, in Beijing China, when the other side of the world still has thousands of cases increased each day per country. The reason is that the COVID-19 condition in China at that time has already been under control, but it’s still not completely safe to work on patients following the old dental protocol. From many pictures that the clinics posted on their Weibo page (Chinese version of Twitter), it shows that these dentists are wearing A level protective suits, N95 masks and a 720-degree plastic face cover which eliminates any possible transmission of the virus. These similar equipment were also seen in the clinics in New York around April. Plus, the dentists, dental assistant and the receptions in Beijing were required to show the proof of a recent negative results from the Nucleic Acid Test. On the patient side, they also have to either show the proof NAT negative result or the proof of didn’t leave Beijing in the past 30 days. Therefore, both the dentist and the patient can feel secure with each other.
For the majority of the countries which do not have enough viro-defence devices for daily dental use or positive COVID-19 situations, “teledentistry” became their dental solution for the patients. It means that the dentist will offer consultation and diagnosis to the patients via videoconference, pictures, and other paths that can be transported through the internet (Estai et al., 2017). Although teledentistry cannot be as accurate as the chair-side examination, the validity of teledentistry is quite pleasing. A meta-analysis indicated that the teledentistry system and traditional examination has shown moderate to almost complete agreement on dental diagnosis (Alabdullah & Daniel, 2018). Hence, seeing patients over the screen would work just fine for general consultation, patient education, and other non-operative procedures. Besides, regulated photo checks for the postoperative patients also allow the dentists to monitor the healing process of the injured site and the oral hygiene of the healing environment. If the picture of the operated tissue looked fine with a positive functional recovery plus a significant decrease of pain described by the patients, it may save the patients an extra trip to the dental clinic for the physical postoperative check (Giudice et al., 2020). It is quite important to limit the unnecessary outgoing activities.
Even though this COVID-19 situation brings in the winter of many careers that require providing services in a close distance, dentistry found its way to work with patients. No matter if it's the Chinese fully-equipped method or the widely used teledentistry system, the ultimate goal of all these dentists is to help the patients out and give them the best dental solutions as they always do.
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• Alabdullah, J. H., & Daniel, S. J. (2018). A Systematic Review on the Validity of Teledentistry. Telemedicine and e-Health, 24(8), 639–648. doi:10.1089/tmj.2017.0132
• Ather, A., Patel, B., Ruparel, N. B., Diogenes, A., & Hargreaves, K. M. (2020). Coronavirus Disease 19 (COVID-19): Implications for Clinical Dental Care. Journal of Endodontics. doi:10.1016/j.joen.2020.03.008
• Estai, M., Kanagasingam, Y., Tennant, M., & Bunt, S. (2017). A systematic review of the research evidence for the benefits of teledentistry. Journal of Telemedicine and Telecare, 24(3), 147–156. doi:10.1177/1357633x16689433
• Giudice, A., Barone, S., Muraca, D., Averta, F., Diodati, F., Antonelli, A., & Fortunato, L. (2020). Can Teledentistry Improve the Monitoring of Patients during the COVID-19 Dissemination? A Descriptive Pilot Study. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, 17(10), 3399. doi:10.3390/ijerph17103399