What a month March has been so far.
We have tracked the development and spread of the Coronavirus which causes COVID-19 since the end of December. Even back then it seemed as though there was likely to be an inevitable spread around the globe.
Fortunately we are a resourceful and resilient group of people, and the Irish are a particularly hardy people who have been brilliant at adopting the guidelines and government advice to help protect us from the worst of this disease.
There are a few things we can do right now to help control the spread and the damage of this disease:
1) Follow government advice and that of the HSE - pay attention to the news and the updates from the department of health.
2) Wash your hands regularly - Soap and water or alcohol hand gel for at least 20 seconds with hot water. Remember to wash between your fingers, the tops of your hands and the tips of your fingers.
3) Maintain social distancing. Limit unnecessary social interactions, avoid mass gatherings, maintain a distance of at least 2 m from people.
4)No handshakes, use elbow bump, foot shake, bow or use the "Namaste" gesture.
As far as dentistry is concerned we have been given excellent guidance by the Irish Dental Association, Dr. Will Rymer is a member of the GP committee in the IDA and is working with them to help ascertain what the Chief Dental Officers advice will be moving forward.
Dentistry is an inherently dangerous environment for infectious diseases. The work we do often creates huge amounts of spray from the mouth which is called aerosol. This (potentially contaminated) aerosol can linger in the air of the surgery for up to 30 minutes after treatment is finished. For this reason dentists are one of the most at risk professions during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Unfortunately whilst the HSE have issued guidance for their own dentists, they have neglected independent private practitioners, and the Chief Dental Officer's silence has been deafening. We are unprotected and have been abandoned. It is for this reason that on Monday 16th March, Expressions and many in the profession had to group together and come up with their own protocol for dealing with the dangers of the pandemic.
Dentists are used to reading scientific literature, interpreting the results, weighing the science and then implementing changes to their practice for the benefits of their patients. This could be a new hygiene practice, new gum disease classifications, or as with now, coronavirus advice from around the globe (Wuhan Dental University hospital and the ADA).
For this reason we have implemented various changes to our work practice.
1) We are deferring all non-essential treatments. This is to reduce exposure risk to us and our patients.
2) This means we are essentially closed to all but serious emergencies.
3) We are pre-screening all patients for COVID-19 with a quick telephone health questionnaire.
4) We are operating a virtual waiting room. Patients will have their appointments confirmed by phone. When they arrive in the car park please ring reception to advise us that you have arrived. We will then ring you when we are ready to receive you. We will then unlock the front door and allow you entry into the building.
5) Once inside we will ask you to sanitize your hands prior to entering the surgery.
6) We will ask you to pre-rinse with an anti-bacterial mouthrinse to reduce the microbial load within your oral cavity prior to treatment.
7) Once inside the surgery we will treat your emergency. Many treatments are being completed with slight modifications to limit spray.
This protocol (along with other measures we are taking) will provide the best protection for our community, whilst also providing treatment to our patients when they are need, as we have a duty of care to our patients.
Also following a request from the Department of Health Dr. Will Rymer has made himself available to the HSE to ease the burden on the frontline healthcare staff. Hopefully whether helping on the ward, screening patients in A&E or just making the tea and coffee, we can help to get the country back moving again.