Dental career doubts after lockdown

dental career doubts after lockdownAfter four months out of the practice, Sammi-Peony Dovey talks about her dental career doubts and why she’s glad to be back.

After months of a near ghost town existence, the high-street and local businesses are slowly emerging from behind their closed shutters. And we’re all starting to take a cautious step into this new unknown way of working.

Upon reopening the dental practice I work in, we ensured a maximum of two clinicians working at any one time. This limits the amount of people in the practice. By doing so, we could guarantee there would not be patients coming into direct contact with other patients. This has been a great success so far.

From July, I have started back within my practice, carrying out hand scaling-only appointments. This avoids creating aerosols within the patient/clinician environment.

The volume of patients that were happy to attend hand scaling-only appointments surprised me. Personally, I didn’t think it would be a popular option. However, I have found that patients are grateful to just be able to book appointments after four months of lockdown.

At the end of my first day back I noticed two emerging themes when looking at how patients have managed their oral care during this time.

Patients have been very concerned with the concept of their oral health worsening over the past few months. This has lead to a meticulous cleaning routine and very healthy gingival tissues. Or, due to a sudden change in daily life, patients have mimicked the upheaval in their oral health. This leads to increased inflammation and periodontal concerns.

Adapting to patients’ needs

It would be unrealistic for me to expect all patients to fall into one category. And therefore I cannot easily issue out advice in a newsletter to ensure everyone is keeping on top of things.

As humans we all react to change and the stress that comes from it very differently. Side effects from this include under or overeating, and smoking or drinking more. This can all have a negative impact on the body and oral cavity. Whilst it’s not openly discussed in magazines, a reduction in personal care can also occur, often unconsciously. This can result in oral health neglect.

During a patient’s appointment, it is vital to take into account all that is occurring in their home/work life and any habits they may fall into during this time. We need to tailor advice to patients for the best outcomes.

The current situation creates time to work with your patients and help them find the best adjustments to motivate an improvement in oral health routine. Rather than an additional burden to add to the stressful time they have been living through recently.

Dental career doubts

I think it is also important to address what this time has been like for dental therapists upon re-entering the clinical environment after so long. And also how it has affected me as a person during this time.

I spent the months of lockdown working part time in Tesco, as one of its 45,000 temporary workforce it took on at the start of the pandemic to meet customer demand. After many months of working six-day dental weeks, having time out was initially a welcome break.

However, this gave me a lot of thinking time to focus on what I wanted out of my dental career. And ultimately, if it was a career I still wanted to be a part of. These dental career doubts were very distressing after I had spent eight years studying and working towards my 2019 graduation.

I put my thoughts into action, which ultimately led me to leaving all but one of my practices and exploring other options.

However, by opening up to other dental therapists, I discovered I was not alone. The thoughts and feelings I was experiencing, many dental care professionals were also going through at this time. The stress, lack of income and overall uncertainty into what the dental profession would look like post COVID-19 all creates doubts.

The knowledge I wasn’t alone vastly helped and reassured me that doubt was a natural emotion to experience within any career span. After lockdown, driving into work with a day of treatment ahead, I felt excited, which was a huge relief.

Sometimes you need time away from something to realise how much you miss it when it is suddenly gone. What a blessing it is when you can finally start back and help people again.

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