Paradigm shift in dentistry: Dr Pallavi Patil on practicing during the pandemic
At this point during the COVID-19 pandemic, many dental offices have begun to adapt to the current situation and resumed their day-to-day work. However, there are many open questions in terms of this paradigm shift that relate to such topics as infection control, sterilisation monitoring and provision of emergency care. At IDEM 2020, Dr Pallavi Patil from India presented an online lecture on the importance of choosing the right protection and on overall transitions in dentistry during the pandemic. In an interview with Dental Tribune International, Dr Patil shared her expert opinion on the topic.
Dr Patil, dental professionals are at great risk of exposure to SARS-CoV-2 and, therefore, require proper protection. In your presentation, titled “Paradigm shift—dental practice in the pandemic”, you covered various tips and guidelines. Can you tell us a little bit more about this?
In this topic, I covered the essential infection prevention protocols and guidelines laid out by global governing bodies like the World Health Organization and the Centre for Disease Control and Prevention. These include personal protective equipment, masks, respirators, hand hygiene and device reprocessing and monitoring. The back-to-work guideline toolkit especially gives very specific suggestions on every aspect of how to start a practice again after this hiatus.
What are the infection controls, administrative controls, environmental and facility controls to be laid down before, during and after treatment are covered. To this, I have also added some protocol changes with respect to routine clinical dental work, considering the additional requirements. The topic revolves around the four specifics: how to mitigate aerosol production, how to mitigate product contamination, how to reduce cross-contamination and how to reduce chairside procedure time.
“There’s no one who isn’t affected by this crisis”
What was the feedback you received from other dental professionals about your lecture?
Unanimous feedback indicated that the topic and related discussion had been needed. There are many webinars and articles on standard precautions and transmission-based precautions. But what does one do once you have put all the precautionary measures in place? How do you start the treatment? What are changes in protocol that you need to make with SARS-CoV-2 now embedded in our environment? Do we change the treatment standard operating procedures or products or delivery systems?
While most of us have deferred elective procedures to a later date, no one knows when that will be. Just empirical treatment may not be enough sometimes. We need to know what the exact changes are, that we need, in order to make sure that we follow infection prevention protocols completely but without compromising on the final treatment outcome. We want to continue doing quality work, so we need to adapt to the new rules of the same game which we have been playing for a long time now.
You have been very active in conducting on-site workshops and lecturing at conferences and institutions. How did you experience lecturing online for IDEM 2020?
Being part of the IDEM 2020 digital conference was an honour. I have been actively lecturing and conducting workshops on various platforms. The digital shift is quite recent. In India, I have been actively doing those for some time now. But this is the first time I was part of such a huge international platform. My session was planned way in advance, and that gave me enough time to prepare. The back-end logistics were conducted smoothly. The team was very knowledgeable and focused, and made me feel very comfortable. The entire thing was seamlessly done. My sincere thanks to the Koelnmesse team and the 3M Singapore team for their unconditional support.
“Everyone is thinking about how to implement the necessary precautionary measures and change or modify treatment procedures while not compromising on quality and results”
How has the SARS-CoV-2 pandemic affected the dental industry in India and your day-to-day work?
As with every other country, this pandemic has rocked the dental industry in India too. No matter which part of world you are in, there’s no one who isn’t affected by this crisis. India is a highly populated country. In accordance with the seriousness of the rapid spread of SARS-CoV-2, India was under complete lockdown from mid-March to mid-July. Too many unknown factors were involved, leading to panic and fear.
The government of India was very prompt and efficient in controlling the situation and implementing treatment and precautionary measures. There has been a huge uproar about dental workplace dangers, and the scare created because of aerosol-generating procedures has taken its toll on the overall footfall of patients.
Recently, we have been getting back to our routine clinical practice with great caution. We are still deferring elective procedures, but most routine work has started. The Indian Dental Association and Dental Council of India moved quickly and took control of the situation and implemented rules and guidelines. The infection prevention protocol is now stringently followed, and dentists are adapting to the new normal. The dental industry in India is slowly but steadily getting back on its feet.
“I think every situation—good or bad—can change you”
Do you think that the SARS-CoV-2 pandemic will have a long-term impact on dentistry and the way dental professionals work?
I firmly believe so, but not necessarily only in a bad way. Of course, financially it has been a huge debacle, but hopefully, that is a short-term result. However, I think every situation—good or bad—can change you. I now see that awareness of infection prevention both in medical professionals and patients has increased. That’s a collective good. Dentists today are thinking of newer and better ways to work. Everyone is thinking about how to implement the necessary precautionary measures and change or modify treatment procedures while not compromising on quality and results. Of course, we’ll not come out of this situation unscathed—the sooner we understand and adapt to it, the faster we’ll be on top of our game again.