‘Too old to panic’ about the impact COVID-19 will have on the future of dentistry
With an uncertain future ahead, Jan Einfeldt gives some simple practical tips to help and explains why he feels positive about the future of dentistry.
There I was in lockdown. Never have I been away from dentistry, my patients and my practice in such a long time. I started to worry what would happen, how would I ever practise dentistry again? What would happen to the patients, my brilliant team and my practice? The initial lack of information for dentists and then the blitz of new rules looked like war had been declared on dentistry.
I turned to an ally – the internet. I quickly realised allies can be fickle – I was spending too much time online, especially with social media. At times it was tempting to call it anti-social media. It should connect friends and colleagues, but it can also drive us further away. So many opinions, intolerance of others’ opinions, ever-changing rules, conflicting advice, theories appearing as fact with little science to back it up and just plain propaganda, which we now call fake news.
There were days where I thought: ‘How is this even going to work after lockdown is over?’ and panic set in. What else was there to do for a German dentist stuck on an old RAF airfield in Kent? Not even our local pub – the Spitfire – was serving Jägerbombs. I went on runs – more like walks really – and it was during these walks and whilst listening to a biography of Sir Winston Churchill that I thought to myself ‘What would Winston do?’
That is when I realised, I’m too old to panic, but not too old to fight! Why don’t I stop worrying about the, admittedly, uncertain future and just focus on what I know and love – dentistry?
On social media I also saw lots of positive things happening. Dentists helping each other as colleagues and human beings. From videos of actual aerosol generating procedures called AGPs (much less than anticipated) by professor Ross Hobson to dispel myths. To Facebook groups where dentists can send their concerns anonymously and receive support like ‘Mental Dental’ started by Lauren Sparkle Harrhy.
Even a whole new organisation started by composite master and mentor Jason Smithson called the British Association of Private Dentistry (BAPD). This was formed to make strides for positive change in dentistry.
Individual dentists are offering their time and advice to help colleagues. Some colleagues have even volunteered to work for the NHS in urgent dental care centres (UDCs) or telephone support for NHS 111. This makes me proud and reminds me that we are a profession that should and can unify to help each other so that we may help patients better. What is good for patients is good for dentists and what is bad for dentists is ultimately bad for patients.
What can you do?
At some point all of us have felt down during the lockdown. And more might come as we get back to working under new conditions. My suggestion is ‘do something physically or mentally positive’. I attempted to do both by timing a bike ride that finished at 8pm on a Thursday. It still brings a smile to my face remembering all the people out clapping for me on the sprint to the finish line.
You could learn a new skill, eg a new language like German or how as a general dentist you can do cosmetic orthodontics. I can teach you both and at the same time. My passion is cosmetic dentistry, orthodontics and teaching. I enjoy the clinical side of treating patients and also teaching general dentists cosmetic teeth straightening for Six Month Smiles and intra oral scanning for Carestream.
From the enquiries I receive at my practice Staplehurst Dental, I can see there is still a great demand for such services. One patient said to me: ‘My holiday was cancelled, so I decided to have my teeth straightening instead!’ During lockdown patients have not been able to go on holiday, the pub or the gym. Sadly, I’m proof of the latter, but it did give me an insight that people still want dentistry.
Prepare yourself for a positive future in dentistry. There has never been more technology and support to help dental professionals to achieve great results for patients. The digital revolution has expanded into all aspects in dentistry and an organisation like the IDDA (International Digital Dental Academy) helps dentists to get to the next level in their digital journey. I am UK representative and an orthodontic committee member for the IDDA.
There are courses that help dental professionals to improve communication with patients run by Ashley Latter and Jaswinder Gill. This reduces the risk of litigation, improves consent, trust and treatment uptake.
My three challenges for you
Reach out to one person today (yes today!)
Somebody that you haven’t heard from for a while and find out if they are ok. If, like me, you haven’t got that many friends, then you can also reach out to me at [email protected]. If I have learned one thing from my dear friend and mentor Anoop Maini, it is to be there for your family, friends and colleagues. I promise that you have just helped someone, and you may not even realise how much you have helped in that moment. If this feels good – do it again!
Work with all your dental colleagues
Dental nurses, dental hygienists, dental therapists, dental technicians, clinical dental technicians, dentists and specialists. Treat them like colleagues and allies. If you have a concern or problem with one of them, have the courage to speak to them – privately – before incriminating someone to the dental regulator.
If you discuss on Facebook, allow colleagues to have a different opinion as you probably want to be able to keep yours. There is a fine line and a big difference between a conversational argument and an argumentative conversation. On a forum it is easy to start arguments. But it is very difficult to settle arguments by text or on a forum. Before posting, ask yourself: ‘Is it true, is it kind and is it necessary’.
Expect there will be some hurdles to overcome and work with your colleagues. You are not the only one with this particular challenge.
Fight for a change in dentistry
We shall fight against what is not working in dentistry and push forward to solve any obstacles. We will never surrender, and dentistry shall rise again and with a stronger sense of unity than before.
And we do not have to accept the terror of rules and policies that make no sense, the fear of vexatious litigation and financial insecurities for our jobs and practices.
Dentistry is about much more than blood, boils, tears and sweat. It’s about helping people – patients and dental professionals. It means having the courage to look out for each other and make dentistry a proud profession again. If someone asks you what is our aim? You can answer: it is victory, victory at all costs, victory in spite of all terror – victory, however long and hard the road may be.