Austin, TX – We are over a month into quarantine. Death tolls, physical distancing, financial struggle, and the psychological ramifications of what is happening is causing a lot of uncertainties for both short and long term. But, as a society, and as part of the human condition, we try to adapt around these emergency situations. And that type of adaptation looks different for every person as well as every different industry.
Dental services are one of those industries that is between a rock and a hard place. Non-emergency services, such as cosmetic and elective procedures in medical facilities are either out of commission, or scaled back. At the same time medical facilities with emergency services have an almost outright legal obligation to stay open. Albeit there are severe restrictions to prevent the spread of the virus, such as no visitors. But all of these measures differ depending on the business, as well as state regulations, with some being more stringent than others. This, in combination with different definitions of essential from people a vested financial interest makes things murky. So, what can dental services do to solidify their position with the public? Before we can answer the question, we need to know how the public and organizations feel about where they and their business stands.
A Covid-19 Dental Survey
Recently, the North American Dental Group conducted their own survey. They are a coalition of 230 dental practices in 15 different states dedicated to taking care of patients. The survey itself is information from a sample of 1,270 adults in the United States in partnership with an international analytics company during April 3-6, 2020. According to the statisticians working on the survey, the margin of error with the gathered data is at 2.75 %, which is so small that the level of confidence of the survey should be pretty high, according to most if not all mathematicians as a rule of thumb.
In it they asked them a series of questions regarding how patients felt about going to the dentist during Covid-19. This survey, small as it is gives us a window into the mindset of dental patients. This allows for dental practices to get a better idea about their position, and can make decision making easier.
According to the survey, 77 percent of Americans were concerned about their personal health and safety during the pandemic. This is not a particularly surprising statistic. In fact, it is almost the exact amount of people in the survey that states their discomfort visiting their dentists during the COVID-19 pandemic for a non-time sensitive dental
procedure. That tells us that an overwhelmingly large part of the American population is staying home.
But would these same people go to the dentist in the middle of an emergency? 51% of the sample pool stated that they were comfortable with going to the dentist during a dental emergency. The 43% of Americans that have put off dental care and developed dental issues is almost a confirmation of the split. However, whether every case is specifically a result of health consciousness is a mystery. After all, there are other variables, such as time and money that factor into the current situation.
They are also a lot of uncertainty in the eyes of the American public about what dental services are available.
- 56 percent are not sure if health organizations have issued protocols to prevent the spread of COVID-19 in dental offices.
- There is significant confusion amongst Americans as to whether dental offices are even open during the COVID-19 pandemic. 39 percent believe that offices are open only for emergencies. 27 percent think that offices are closed. 34 percent are not sure.
What Can Dentists Do to Mitigate the Confusion?
Americans are unsure about a lot of things right now, so they are uncertain about what constitutes an emergency and what steps to take to get emergencies taken care of. So, it is up to dental practices to educate their communities about what changes they need to cope with.
According to the same association that ran the survey there are 6 things that dentists can tell their patients to do to get their dental needs taken care of while being safe at the same time.
Patients who must visit their dentist should follow these five steps:
1.) Contact your dentist to determine if you require treatment for a dental emergency or if it can wait.
Your dentist may ask to connect via a video call to better assess the need for immediate care.
2.) Only seek care if you are healthy and do not suspect that you have been exposed to COVID-19. If you have symptoms of COVID-19 or are concerned that you may have been exposed, work with your dentist to determine an appropriate plan.
3.) Arrive on time for your appointment by yourself. Anyone accompanying you to the appointment should expect to wait outside the office.
4.) Maintain social distancing, as possible, and good hygiene when you are in the office. If you have a wait, sit at least six feet away from any other patients. Ask to wash your hands before and after your procedure and avoid touching your face.
5.) Ensure you understand and follow any provided discharge instructions, so you return to health as soon as possible and avoid the need for any unnecessary follow-up care.
Do you want a practice that can handle dental emergencies during these times? Or do you want to just learn more about your teeth in general? Visit us at www.austinfamilydentist.com