May 9, 2020 | Dr. Satish Alavandar
Let’s start with a quick recap:
On March 15, 2020, The New York Times published an article titled “The Workers Who Face the Greatest Coronavirus Risk.” Dentists were placed as the most at risk of contracting coronavirus by virtue of working close to the patient’s mouth and also due to the high volume of aerosols produced during routine dental procedures.
On March 24, 2020, the nation was forced into a pan-India lockdown due to the COVID 19 healthcare crisis.
On April 8, 2020, the Center for Disease Control (CDC) officially recognized the risk to dental professionals and came out with clear guidelines to be followed during the pandemic. The CDC guidelines advocated that dentists do not perform any elective procedures and /or any procedures that generate aerosols. These guidelines were later updated to include Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) that are to be used while treating patients during this crisis along with the recommendations for reuse and extended use of N95 masks.
The Dental Council of India (DCI) too came out with its own set of guidelines that were similar to the CDC guidelines.
In the meantime, almost 95 percent of all dental clinics in India were shut down voluntarily due to the shortage of PPE and the apprehension among dentists that they may accidentally treat a COVID positive patient and end up having to face its consequences.
At the beginning of this lockdown, most of us would have probably expected to be back at work within 15 days. However, it is Day 45 today and there seems to be no light at the end of this tunnel. During these 45 days, we have also been subjected to a sustained marketing blitz from dental equipment manufacturers and vendors about their latest equipment that will COVID-proof your clinic and how you cannot go back to treating patients without any of this equipment. These have ranged from grotesquely-overpriced extraoral suctions to automatic shoe cover dispensers to fogging machines and fake N95 masks.
There is a question in everyone’s mind: “Should I buy these machines?”
In my opinion, that’s a question to be answered on another day. The question that everyone should be asking themselves before buying any of these anti-COVID gadgets is:
“After 45 days of not using them, do the gadgets that I already own still work?”
After sitting at home for the first 30 days of this lockdown and failing miserably at making the Dalgona coffee for the 100th time, I decided that it was time for me to see how this lockdown was treating my clinic. Here is a very enumeration of my findings:
The motor that carries water from the borewell to the overhead tank had burnt out (Only God knows how!) My compressor did not start. When I finally managed to get the compressor started, my handpiece did not work. When I got the handpiece to work, the water line was blocked and no water spray was coming out of the handpiece. There is an air leak somewhere in the chair which I am unable to locate. My portable X-ray machine’s battery was dead. My endomotor battery was dead. My Iight cure unit’s battery was dead. The whole place was stinking.
It’s probably going to take at least a week to fix all this. The fun part is that I am going to have to do it all by myself since no one is ready to come and work inside a dental clinic.
Now ask yourself these questions:
“Did I drain the residual water from my compressor and unplug it?”
“Did I disconnect my handpiece and oil it before I closed the clinic?”
“Did I flush my water lines regularly?”
“Did I charge my rechargeable gadgets regularly or did I leave them on charge for the past 45 days?”
As in the immortal words of Dirty Harry, you can ask yourself:
“Do you feel lucky, Doc?”
About the author
Dr. Satish Alavandar is a Chennai-based Prosthodontist and runs a high-end dental clinic. You can learn more about his exciting career here.
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