How is the coronavirus impacting the people and practices in dentistry?

Here we give a few different stories from dentists and dental professionals about how they’re dealing with the coronavirus.

Shakir Mughal – practice principal, Bucklersbury Dental Studio, Hitchin

Shakir and Nafisa Mughal
Shakir (pictured left) with his wife and co-owner Nafisa Mughal

In an unprecedented time, dentistry, just like all other industries faces immense challenges. These are my experiences and challenges as a principal of two predominantly private practices.

As the situation has been developing rapidly over the last few weeks, principals have faced a huge dilemma. Protecting the health and well-being of their staff and patients versus the financial impact this will have on business. The lack of guidance from our regulatory bodies, has made this decision even tougher.

The question of whether we should stay open has been greatly contested by the dental profession. After a long period of uncertainty, we recently, finally received guidance form our chief dental officer and the BDA.

Prior to this guidance, in both my practices we implemented several protocols. These included limiting the use of aerosols unless absolutely necessary, use of hand sanitiser gels in the waiting rooms, triage of patients and not seeing the over 70s population for routine treatment.

Financial impact

Following the guidance, we have made the very tough decision to close both practices and run an emergency only cover for a minimum of eight weeks. The financial impact of this decision will be huge. But the safety of our staff and patients is paramount. In order to help with cashflow during these uncertain times and minimise business costs, we have attempted to, where possible, cancel non-essential direct debit payments and look at holiday repayment loans for existing leases. We are also looking into the Small Business Government Grant and the Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan.

Bucklersbury dental
Bucklersbury Dental Studio in Hitchin

In order to ease the financial worries of all our employees, we have decided to invoke the Furlough leave for all our employees. This will guarantee 80% of their monthly income. Our employees are like a second family. We feel a huge burden to protect them both in terms of health but also financially. As a result I have promised my employees that, if possible, I will try to endeavour to pay the remaining 20% of their monthly income.

We are all hoping that this situation will soon be over, but it is essential we all prepare our businesses. The next year for all small businesses will be very tough. But hopefully we can look back and say the decisions we made helped protect out staff, patients and the wider community. I also strongly believe that once the worst is over, there will be new opportunities available to grow and prosper.

One final point I would like to share is don’t panic! As principals we are leaders and need to remain calm, not just for our staff but also our patients. For me, mindset is everything, we cannot control this situation but we can control our response to how we deal with it and come out the other side. Wishing everyone to stay safe in this uncertain time.

David Johnson, chair of the BDA Welsh Committee for Community Dentistry

David Johnson
Dr Johnson prior to shaving his beard for the FIT testing

Dentists in Wales now have a triage system for the care and management of patients who infected with the coronavirus. Dr David Johnson, a community dental officer and a member of BSPD’s executive committee is one of those who are at the ready in a clinic in south Wales.

As of today, he and his dental nurse can provide dental treatment in what he describes as a ‘hot clinic’. It is dedicated to patients who might need aerosol generating procedures and/or who might have coronavirus.

He said: ‘The role of the CDS is to care for vulnerable patients. We regard anyone with coronavirus symptoms as vulnerable.’

He has personal protective equipment and is FIT tested to ensure that no aerosol can permeate through his mask. The challenge for dental services is that FFP3 masks are in short supply. They need prioritising for medical teams saving lives.

Colleagues of his are operating a ‘cold’ clinic for patients who do not have coronavirus symptoms and who do not require aerosol generating procedures but still require emergency treatment. All other patients are asked not to attend a dental clinic.

‘It’s normal to feel anxious at times like this when we lose control of our lives. Being proactive in this way, treating vulnerable patients, is helping.’

He is devising a triage system for patients who need emergency treatment, who will have an initial phone call.

Dr Johnson is in the community clinic where he normally works. He has had all its other services withdrawn or reallocated so that his hot clinic dental can take over the space.

He is chair of the BDA Welsh Committee for Community Dentistry (WCCD), and praised his colleagues in the GDS and CDS who have helped organise similar clinics throughout Wales and he praised Welsh CDO Colette Bridgman for her leadership.

‘It elates me to see us coming together as a dental family and providing a fantastic service.’

Anna Middleton, the London Hygienist

Anna Middleton

It is a heartbreaking time having to shut shop during this unprecedented time. The health and well being of my patients, their families and my teams has and always will remain my number one priority.

I have cancelled all my patients until further notice and my university placement that I started this year to train as a dental therapy partly suspended.

Like many others in the same position, financially this will be a testing time for the self employed. A few weeks, even a few months I could survive but need to consider what I will do if or when the money does finally run out.

With the uncertainty of how long this pandemic will last, many of us are already looking at backup plans. Everything from applying for volunteering roles to applying for work at our local supermarkets.

In the meantime I have been using the time at home to rest, study, organise my finances, audit my business, work on all the ‘chores’ I have been putting off and staying in touch with my family and friends.