Lockdown lessons – what the pandemic taught me as a dental professional

We hear from three dental professionals about what lessons they took away from lockdown – and where they see dentistry headingWe hear from three dental professionals about what lessons they’ve taken away from the pandemic and where they see dentistry heading.

Martina Hodgson – ‘when the chips are down you find out who your real friends are’

No matter how challenging lockdown was – home schooling, worrying about my business, team and patients – when I look back there are so many very important positives that came out of it.

I was recently asked what the proudest moment of my career was. Well it was lockdown. I’ll never forget the moment I stood in front of my team the day we decided to close our doors, before anyone had ever heard of the word ‘furlough’.

I made a promise to them all that I would do everything in my power to keep their jobs. I had no idea how I would do this but I just knew I had to. In the end Rishi saved the day. But not before my team had seen what I was prepared to do as we sat at rock bottom.

I learnt that if you look after you team, and genuinely care about them, they will pay you back with their loyalty and trust. And they did. Not one person complained when I asked them all to work 11-hour shifts for two months on our return to work. As a result our business not only survived, but is thriving.

I learnt the true power of collaboration, forming a group of female practice owners that had each others backs by offering each other practical and emotional support. It is no coincidence that when the CDO finally clicked her fingers, despite only one third of practices in the UK being ready to open their doors, all of us reopened ours on the 8 June.

I will never forget the people that helped me through lockdown, and there are so many. When the chips are down you find out who your real friends are. And what a wonderful gift that is.

Anna Middleton – ‘I have had a huge surge in new patients’

It’s been an interesting year for me so far as I started my top degree to become a dental therapist in January. I spent pre lockdown practising my new skills on phantom heads and in practice placement. Then during lockdown continued to learn all things therapy from home via Zoom lectures.

In terms of my business, I made time to revamp my website and create meaningful content that the public could access as I saw the demand for information.

I’m now back on placement. I’ll continue to apply my new therapy skills in a number of scenarios in the run up to my finals in November.

I think it is hard to predict how the future of dentistry will unfold. I have had a huge surge in new patients as my business was founded off the back of utilising direct access to improve access to dental care. I’m fully booked till December.

From what these patients have told me, many practices aren’t opening or aren’t treating hygiene patients. Additionally, I think teledentistry will continue to develop and be used more. I found during lockdown I had lots of messages asking for advice. I was able to help people manage their oral health – and even alleviate some of their problems.

It’s something that I think will continue to be used, especially if there is another lockdown. But it also serves well as a triaging tool. I am also excited to be able to extend my scope of practice to include therapy as part of my direct access services. I truly believe this will continue to help the public gain access to dental care and improve workflow in my practices.

Lauren Lennon – ‘I am prepared to be flexible with whatever changes come my way’

The ability to be more flexible! I am a big perfectionist when it comes to planning. My calendar has to be booked up two months in advance whether that’s in or out of work.

I crave a pre-planned schedule so I can focus on the task at hand. However, the lockdown and rise in cases back in March caused major uncertainty for everyone. We didn’t know if we would be working or allowed out for an hours exercise.

That uncertainty still remains seven months down the line. It has given me life lessons that will help me forever. We have had to adapt to situations changing rapidly and this has allowed me to plan less without stress.

During this time, I have learnt to relax and not stress when plans change. It’s also taught me how to be flexible to adapt to my changing surroundings. I’ve taken that into my workspace by learning to be comfortable in uncomfortable situations.

I’m now pushing boundaries and learning new skills that I was previously delaying due to not having time. This includes setting up my own aesthetics business, reflecting on areas in my work that need improving, taking time to look into my work and noticing what changes would improve how I do things.

I am prepared to be flexible with whatever changes come my way. That being said, I don’t know what other changes we will see in the next six months, especially in dentistry. With new guidance popping up every week, I am sure there will be plenty more changes ahead.

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