When I started thinking back over the past few years, wondering how dentistry has changed 3 years after the start of Covid, I was of two minds. In some ways, we were just as impacted as many other industries. But in other ways, nothing changed at all, and our current best practices were proven to be strong. Let me dive in to explain what I mean.
What Changed In Dentistry Due to Covid
In the beginning of Covid, every dentist I knew was scrambling. We had to completely pivot. Some dentists had to shut their practice’s doors, let go of team members, and take out loans. For now, we’ve learned to live with Covid, and our lives have mostly gotten back to normal.
Early Days of 2020
In the beginning of the pandemic, I was completing root canals in one visit more often than I had been. I spent a lot of time educating patients on the potential risks of being at the dentist, since we were learning more about the virus and its mutations every day. For a little while, people were putting off in-person dental care, including root canals.
We also set up our waiting room for social distancing, had patients sit in their cars to wait, took temperatures upon arrival, and asked screening questions about their potential exposure. We also started using teledentistry to triage from the safety of home. When patients did need to come into the practice, we had them wash their hands for a full 30 seconds (with a timer so there was no cheating!), and then rinse with 1.5% hydrogen peroxide for a minute. Plus, we were going through Lysol wipes on the front desk and phones like there was no tomorrow!
Patient safety has always been, and will always be, our number one concern. Fortunately, now we have improved our knowledge of Covid, and we’ve come to understand that preventative measures (like PPE and rubber dams) are effective at keeping practitioners and patients safe during dental appointments.
More Recent Impacts of Covid
Once we settled into our “new normal,” several things kept shifting. Dentistry has continued to change even now, 3 years after the start of Covid.
For example… holy inflation! I’ve really seen the cost of equipment and tools rise in the past year. It’s not just dental equipment, though; everything seems to be more expensive, from restaurant tabs to houses. Unfortunately, this means we have to pass our increased cost of doing business along to our patients, but we’ve kept our prices as reasonable as possible at my practice.
The other big shift that started with Covid was difficulties with team retention. Understandably, there were a number of people who simply didn’t feel comfortable or safe working in an environment close to people’s mouths. Team retention has continued to be a struggle as the pandemic has dragged on. As I understand it, this is a trend that has taken place across nearly every industry, with “The Great Resignation,” new job opportunities, and more work-from-home professions popping up.
It’s obviously hard to say goodbye to a great colleague, and what’s just as tough is losing stability in the systems and efficiencies you worked so hard to dial down with them. Practice efficiency is tough when you’re constantly changing personnel. Every time you bring someone new in—even if they’re super-experienced—they will have new things to be trained on. This has shown me just how important written and video SOPs are in my practice, because you’re never guaranteed team stability.
There’s been a silver lining to the pandemic, though, as far as I’m concerned. Patients are generally more empowered and curious about their health. They’re more proactive than ever, and they seem more willing to ask questions and learn about their treatment options and the why behind my recommendations. I love this, because I am a huge advocate for patient empowerment!
What Hasn’t Changed In Dentistry Due to Covid
The great news is that our pre-existing protocols for patient and practitioner safety were already excellent, so this really hasn’t changed due to Covid.
For the Love of Rubber Dams
Every single day I am so grateful for rubber dams and for my OpalDam. I haven’t seen any studies on this, but I really hope that Covid has gotten more dentists to use rubber dams. It protects practitioners from SO many aerosols, and it keeps everything sanitary for the patient. Download my Rubber Dam Template here. It’s really a time-saver!
After I put the rubber dam on, I take a cotton pellet soaked in sodium hypochlorite and make sure I wipe down that tooth. Afterwards, I use my OpalDam to seal all the little openings in the rubber dam that could leak out any oral fluids.
It’s a little detail, but it goes a long way in keeping everyone safe and our procedures effective. As I always say, endo is all about the details!
Self-Care is a Winning Strategy
This is nothing new, but taking care of our bodies and spirits continues to be so important these days.
As for my routine, I drink warm lemon water every morning and take a shot of apple cider vinegar. I also take vitamin D, vitamin C, a probiotic, and zinc to boost my immune system.
I always keep my hands washed, keep up my meditation practice, give myself breaks and vacations when I need them, work out regularly, and spend time in nature whenever the weather is nice.
There have been a few silver linings to the pandemic. One of my fondest memories of the last few years has been making homemade meals with my family and having the ability to slow down my pace to find some peace. I honestly wish the world would shut down for two weeks every year (minus the illness) so we could all get a well-deserved rest.
Covid specifically, and dentistry in general, is a marathon, not a sprint. It’s here with us for good now, so taking care of ourselves is key to staying healthy and energized.
In Summary: How Dentistry Has Changed 3 Years After the Start of Covid
I remember how confusing and frustrating it was at the beginning of the pandemic, when no one knew quite what to do. Were we safe to treat patients in-person? When would the CDC come out with more information? Did we need UV light and HEPA filters? What kind of masks were best?
I am SO glad those days are behind us.
We’ve learned a lot in the past three years about Covid and how it impacts dentistry. But the good news is that we:
- Should lean on pre-existing safety protocols, like rubber dams and PPE.
- Have more empowered patients than ever, who have taken an interest in their own health.
- Can build stronger processes and systems than ever, so our practices can be resilient and efficient, even when we experience personnel shifts.
- Are motivated to keep our own bodies and minds healthy, so we can serve our patients at the top of our game.
At the end of the day, we’re here for patients, rain or shine, Covid or no Covid. We’re here to give teeth a chance. I’m grateful for the privilege.
If you want to stay up-to-date on what’s going on in dentistry, I invite you to join the next session of E-School with Coaching. You’ll receive access to my award-winning online curriculum, plus 8 weeks of live group coaching calls and private Facebook group access, so you can ask questions and share your tooth stories. Click here to learn when the next cohort is, and to sign up. Space is limited.