Dentistry Online’s 2020 round up
Following one of the most eventful years in living memory, we look back and review the biggest dental news headlines of 2020.
Not a very cheery start to our 2020 round up. But then again, the year wasn’t especially uplifting. Looking at this headline, you would be forgiven for thinking COVID-19 had already started to devastate on a worldwide scale. But even before the virus made itself internationally known, a survey showed half of the dental profession had considered leaving the job due to reasons of personal wellbeing.
Dentist Neel Kothari questions whether referring for NHS care is unnecessarily complicated and problematic. He describes his fear of further restrictions and challenges as resources become more stretched. Unfortunately, it’s an apt and timely piece considering the rollercoaster that 2020 would be for the profession.
Dentistry – and the rest of the health and social care sector – started to feel the effect of PPE shortages. The UK government vowed to unlock stocks of face masks to help ease the pressure of supply issues. It claimed these were put aside in preparation for Brexit (which I think we all thought would be the biggest political challenge to navigate in 2020). The shortage was also fuelled by the sudden increased demand for face masks from the public.
The relatively new phenomenon of vaping means that many questions still surround its use and its implications on one’s health. Connor Hughes weighed up the benefits and drawbacks of it when compared to smoking tobacco. His conclusion? More research is needed before its overall risk is declared. But its lack of tar and nicotine places it far higher on the safety scale than traditional cigarettes.
Kimberley Finlayson, one of the co-founders of FMC, passes away following a short illness. A driving force behind the scenes of the company, Kimberley’s career was defined by a commitment to excellence that helped make FMC the UK’s biggest independent dental publisher. She approached the world with an infectious passion, creativity and determination that will forever be written into the fabric of the business. She leaves behind an organisation committed to honouring her memory.
March saw us well and truly enter pandemic territory. To start with, it was officially called a pandemic by the World Health Organisation as of 11 March 2020. In a scramble to release the relevant information, the UK’s chief dental officers issue guidance for the profession before the UK enter lockdown. Robust infection control procedures and the cancellation of routine appointments stand among the advice.
The end of March saw the UK enter a national lockdown – quite a while after many other European countries had already shut down. Initially in place for three weeks, Prime Minister Boris Johnson took to the TV to address the nation and told the public to stay home to save lives. With coronavirus research and studies flying about, the dental profession is declared one of the riskiest sectors when it came to virus transmission. This study in particular concluded that four out of five of the most riskiest jobs were related to dentistry.
As the virus establishes itself as a household name, April sees the more specific (and technical) term of ‘COVID-19’ come into general use. England’s chief dental officer, Sara Hurley, gives an exclusive interview with Dentistry Online about how she was handling the crisis.
The month also sees the opening of London’s NHS Nightingale Hospital, set up and prepared for the overspill of patients. In one of my favourite stories of the year, redeployed dentists see themselves assisting midwives with c-sections. Professor Shakeel Shahdad, consultant in restorative dentistry, based at Barts Health NHS Trust and QMUL Institute of Dentistry, says his dental staff helped in maternity, the critical care unit (CCU), the emergency department, the urgent treatment centre and with staff testing.
While some dentists apply for redeployment, others get themselves temporary jobs. Lincoln Hirst, a practice principal from Hertfordshire, speaks about his time working night shifts at an Amazon warehouse. With a practice that is 85% private – and a lot of spare time – Lincoln welcomes the chance to earn a bit of cash and see how a completely different industry works from the inside. April was a difficult month for dental teams after they were asked to close their doors. As a result, the story attracts a lot of support from the profession.
May did not bring the good news the profession hoped for. All of the urgent dental care centres (UDCs) in Hertfordshire shut their doors after the NHS refuses to promise extra funding. Four centres close to 1.2 million people, who need to travel in excess of 30 miles for emergency treatment. This is not the only area hit with troubles when it came to providing urgent care to the public. Many other regions also witness a slow start.
While the UK saw lockdown restrictions begin to lift, the future of dentistry still hung in the balance. CDO Sara Hurley announces that current public health measures limit the return of routine dentistry. Instead, she introduces further effort to expand and improve urgent treatment. She tells the profession to brace itself for a ‘new era of dental care’.
Among all the talk of COVID-19, another key topic of 2020 was the Black Lives Matter movement. Following the murder of George Floyd at the end of May, thousands took to the streets in protest on a global scale. We heard from three dental professionals who admirably opened up about their personal experiences within the profession – and put forward suggestions on how inequality can be tackled.
Monday 8 June 2020 – a date that all in the dental profession will remember in the years to come. After two and a half months of closure, practices finally get the go ahead to resume care once again. As a result, the CDOs across the UK release new guidance about how to get back to work safely in a vastly different environment to the beginning of the year.
Dominic O’Hooley retells the story of how he almost lost his right arm after a devastating bike crash on the way to his dental practice. After four operations in one week, he talks about the difficult journey towards regaining independence and getting back to work. I think we can all take something away from his concluding line: ‘I started looking forward to tomorrow. I try to think less about the past.’
As many other European countries sidestep fallow time, the dental profession in the UK start questioning why it is a requirement. Unsurprisingly, it significantly hinders patient access – creating further obstacles following the growing backlog of care. Here, Michael Heffernan considers the science and research behind its implementation.
Everyone’s journey into dentistry is different – and Jana Denzel’s story shows there’s no right way to get there. He opens up about his parents’ experience moving to England from Sri Lanka, his childhood and balancing his work and dental degree while living in Valencia, Spain.
Tony Kilcoyne spoke exclusively to Dentistry Online about his time at the British Dental Association (BDA) and why he thinks there’s an issue at the top of the organisation. To solve the issues, he called for an external independent investigation over fears the culture could get ‘suppressed’ through self-interest.
We hear from three dental nurses who speak about how their role has been shaped by the pandemic. This came as many dental nurses took the decision not to re-register with the General Dental Council (GDC). Gemma Forsythe, one of the nurses we spoke to, says nurses feel under appreciated, adding that many also feel extremely overwhelmed by the challenging circumstances.
The UK raised the COVID-19 alert from level 3 to 4 – meaning the virus is in general circulation, and transmission is high or rising exponentially. Sara Hurley wrote to the dental profession about what this meant for the sector. This comes as new data shows more than half of UK dental practices relied on government loans during lockdown.
Patient with chloroform, crossbow and knives ‘planned to torture’ dentist after four years of stalking
Dentist Ian Hutchinson speaks out about what it was like to be told he had been unknowingly stalked for nearly four years. In November 2019, his former patient, Thomas Baddeley, was arrested near his house. Police discovered a kit that included a crossbow, knife and bleach. After we ran this interview, Baddeley was spotted attempting to disguise himself near Dr Hutchinson’s practice. But it was only after this arrest that he was handed a two-year jail sentence – apparently the original crime was not enough to warrant such a punishment.
New guidance was released allowing dental practices to dramatically reduce their fallow periods. With the correct mitigation and air changes taking place, a 10-minute period following an AGP is considered appropriate. This is welcome news to many, who could consequently ramp up the number of patients who pass through their practice doors.
A (long overdue) second national lockdown is announced, predicted to last for around four weeks. As dental practices were asked to close during the first one back in March, there are some question marks surrounding what this would mean for the profession this time around. Thankfully, it was confirmed that dentistry would stay open.
Watch the Dentistry Awards 2020 here!
Our annual Dentistry Awards took to the virtual screen for the first time ever. With a fantastic list of finalists, hundreds turned up for the occasion and celebrated the successes of practices and professionals across the country.
New NHS dental charges came into force from 14 December, sparking outrage among the profession. Seeing as it was postponed in April (when the large majority most likely believed we would be in a far better position by the end of the year), there seems to be little reason why this cannot be done again.
Finally – a light at the end of the tunnel and a hopeful story to round off the year. December saw the beginnings of the vaccine rollout, after trials revealed impressive efficacy rates. As a result, dental teams were called upon as part of the national effort to begin vaccinating the most vulnerable members of society. Although Christmas may be very different this year, we can hold onto the hope that 2021 will bring more good news.
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