In the first of a series of videos, we hear how the dental profession is getting back to the practice. Gina Vega explains what measures she’s taken to protect patients.
Align Technology published results of a new survey revealing the measures taken and challenges faced by the dental profession during and after the COVID-19 lockdown.
According to the report, drawn from a number of independent sources by Align Technology, the dental profession has risen to the challenge of treating patients throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. With increased safety measures and a rise in virtual consultations, compared with pre-COVID-19 times.
The report finds that closing practices during a potential second wave in the autumn could be detrimental to patient health.
In a survey of dentists, therapists, hygienists and nurses, 96% stated that lockdown had an adverse impact on the nation’s oral health. And the need for greater access to affordable dental care.
In addition, 88% of dental health experts say the UK’s dental health could decline. This is due to a lack of routine appointments leading to preventative dental issues getting worse.
Those professionals surveyed suggest there were missed opportunities to identify oral cancer. This may cause significant long-term health issues.
More than three quarters (77%) are especially worried that we will miss oral cancers, and not refer them onwards.
Further, 1,700 members of the British Association of Private Dentists concur. Nearly 97% of those surveyed are performing fewer oral cancer screens per day in comparison to pre-lockdown.
More than one third (41%) of dentists believe it will take between a year and 18 months for the UK’s oral health to return to ‘normal’ after the crisis (Mydentist research).
Increasing demand for dental implants
A probable rise in the need for implants was a concern.
Dr Guy Laffan, a dentist practising in Wales, advised that he personally extracted 10 patients’ teeth post lockdown. He feels these could have been saved if his practice remained open and treatment was accessible.
Whilst London-based Dr Gina Vega added that 35-40 of her patients had root canal issues during lockdown. Around half did not meet the criteria to see the dental hubs. Some had teeth extracted as a result.
Dr Vega expects a surge in the number of implants conducted over the coming months.
A future for ‘telehealth’?
The report suggests those patients who connect with a dentist virtually during the lockdown period had a positive experience.
Patients who use a virtual clinic or telephone consultation had 97% and 94% satisfaction with their experience respectively (Mydentist research).
This suggests a future for the use of telehealth in dentistry as an aid to recovery from the coronavirus pandemic.
Many dentists identify adult orthodontics as an opportunity for growth for practices post lockdown.
In a new survey, more than three quarters (80%) of orthodontists saw an increase in adult patients. And over half (60%) say this is due to heightened awareness of adult orthodontics.
The British Orthodontic Society says more than 15% of orthodontists say celebrities and bloggers influence their adult patients. The majority of adult patients (85%) are in the 26 to 55 age bracket and female (80%).
According to Dr Mark Cronshaw, president of the Pandora Group*, the dental profession is leading the way for stringent safety measures.
While protective masks, gloves and clothing have always been the gold standard for patient and doctor protection, during lockdown this lobbying organisation created a recommended eight-step protocol for reopening safely.
This included evidence-based advice about the length of fallow time, air sterilisation, AGPs, rubber dam, (levels of) PPE suction technologies, and patient pre-treatment checks.
The protocol aims to reduce the risks associated with aerosol generating procedures down to around 0.1% risk. And cumulatively reduces the overall risk and impact on the provision of general dental practice.
Additionally, while dentists have been advised they should have a month’s worth of PPE in reserve in case of a second wave, no dentists questioned reported concerns about access to PPE.
This underlines the profession’s forward-planning measures.
Align Technology is committing $1 million to the Align Foundation to source and supply personal protective equipment (PPE) and medical supply donations. As well as making cash donations to the World Health Organisation (WHO) in Europe.
It is also using its 3D printing technology and manufacturing expertise to produce face shields and medical swaps to support the fight against COVID-19.
In addition, the company is supporting campaigns to help dentists and dentistry through sharing best practice, cooperating with leading associations, providing practical support for organisations and developing technologies to support the profession. This includes introducing virtual solutions to connect doctors and patients.
Visit www.aligntech.com for more information.
More about Gina Vega
Gina qualified in Mexico at ‘Universidad Tecnológica de México’ (UNITEC) where she worked in private dentistry in the prestigious area of Polanco in Mexico City.
In 2001, Gina moved to London. Due to her passion and dedication to dentistry she re-qualified in the UK through the very demanding International Qualifying Exam (IQE) in 2004. Since then, she has been working in private dentistry in Tunbridge Wells, Chelsfield and now in central London.
Gina practices all aspects of general dentistry and has a special interest in Invisalign. She has just been made a Platinum Elite Invisalign practitioner – putting her in the top 10% of the most experienced Invisalign providers in London, having successfully treated over 600 Invisalign patients.
Gina has earned Platinum Elite status by treating between 81-150 Invisalign patients within the last 12 months.
Through hard work and dedication, Gina has an excellent reputation as a general dental practitioner who has patients coming from different parts of England to see her.
* Pandora is an independent think tank recognising the need for evidence based best practice and guidance during the COVID-19 pandemic. Since the end of March, the group has been researching and pooling resources to create protocols. This is enabling the profession to get back to treating the nation’s dental needs.