Mask acne, PPE and a whole new world of fears – reflections of the last year

hygienist in ppeAmber Ojak explores what has changed over the last 15 months and how dentistry can combat the long waiting lists for treatment.

It has now been 15 months since the start of the pandemic. As a dental care professional, it really has taken me a while to reflect on what’s happened.

We were all faced with new obstacles, new PPE, new barriers with our patients. After speaking to a lot of professionals across the board, I think that we are all a bit exhausted!

Every day I am so grateful to have wonderful working colleagues who have been nothing but supportive during this trying time. But I have also found many personal challenges.

The worst thing has been the facial skin conditions I have suffered for nearly a year now. Whereas previously I was quite lucky and had very few.

They appear in the same places. Every time I feel that I have got rid of the spots and blemishes, they come back.

As the summer months go on, the heat from wearing all these PPE layers of protection can sometimes make me feel unable to breathe and is not very comfortable at all. When you’re trying to do your best for patients, it really is a struggle to stop thinking about PPE and concentrate on the treatment.

Patient attendance

I sympathise for all the patients who tell me how scared they are to come to the dentist now too.

Some started to return to the practices last summer. But many have been put off again, due to the second and third waves of coronavirus.

As we know, dental examinations are essential for picking up not only dental problems, but other potential issues such as oral cancer. It concerns me that many people may not have been diagnosed due to the fear of returning to us. It makes me think about these patients, but I’m also happy to treat patients again.

Utilising the workforce

The backlog of patients waiting for NHS dental appointments is also a worry. Some people tell me it is taking them months to arrange an appointment.

As a dental therapist, I really believe now is the perfect time to utilise our profession once and for all. We can see these patients either as part of a treatment plan or through direct access. This would mean more people are able to receive treatment and relieve the work for dentists.

I’ve never seen a better opportunity to utilise hygienists and therapists. With more graduates stepping into the working world this year, the answer seems so simple. The solution is right here; it is our profession!

Who knows what the future of dentistry will look like. Will we keep the new world we are becoming accustomed to?

I think the most important thing is just remembering to take time to reflect on the last year and how far we have come. We have done so well as a profession. Sometimes it’s good to take time to appreciate this as much as our patients do.

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