Dentistry in the Second Wave

by Shawn Peers, DentalPeers

Looking back to the glorious month of August, it was not just the wonderful summer weather we were enjoying. We were also enjoying the easing of restrictions as Covid numbers appeared to be on the decline.

Yes…we heard the warning calls about the potential for a second wave. Perhaps we hoped that wave would not materialize as we enjoyed how properly distanced, outdoor get togethers gave us a break from “Covid fatigue”.

What a difference a month makes!

September saw more diagnosed cases in many provinces than any other month before.
On the positive side, we did see a lower fatality rate. One can only hope this trend can continue.

Still, more cases will impact the dental community. As some regions face the prospect of another round of lockdowns, it will be interesting to see if dental offices are ordered to limit their activity to emergency cases again. One recent proposal to have dental offices used as testing sites may, in part, be an attempt to ensure offices are not included in any lockdown order.

How this proposal is received, however, remains a big question. With the recent approval of the ID NOW rapid Covid-19 testing device, obtaining testing kits may be a bit easier. These testing kits do not require lab analysis to arrive at results, avoiding one of the principle bottlenecks of the current system.

However, there are some questions as to their accuracy. More importantly, one has to wonder whether team members will embrace the role of testing conductor.

At the end of the day, it may be the patients who make the final decision. Some areas are already seeing patients cancelling appointments as city and provincial medical officers advise the public to limit contact to family members once again. This means some offices are suddenly finding themselves looking at more open time than they care to.

The positive news remains that, when we survived the first wave and dental offices were allowed to re-open, we discovered that demand for dental services had not declined. Patients still value their oral health. We should feel confident that our recovery from the second wave will enjoy a similar experience.

Still, we can expect some interesting long-term impacts from this pandemic. Many team members have decided now is the time to move away from clinical dentistry. This could lead to a significant shortage of talent…and that can drive salaries up.

Some dentists may look to technological solutions to bring those costs under control. Others may look at non-clinical positions and be more open to recruiting people from outside of dentistry. While this will only be a solution for administrative positions, many offices have reported extremely positive results from recruiting outside traditional dental circles and investing in training such individuals.

The move toward more domestic production of some of the essential products may ensure greater reliability of supply. However, it may also mean higher production costs which will be passed along to the dental community. Part of this may be passed onto the patients. But it may also mean that dentistry becomes a bit less profitable than it used to be.

These thoughts are all speculation. However, we have been living in a constant state of speculating about the unknown for months now. It is important that we keep the potential for these events in mind as we enter the final quarter of 2020 and work on our business plans for 2021. It is always best to be prepared so you can make fast decisions when you need to.

Clearly, this is not the news any of us had hoped to hear. It is important to keep in mind that this is a challenge you can overcome with proper planning. Now is the time to sit down with your team and talk about these issues. Understand their concerns and collectively develop your plan now. If you show you are there to support them, there is a greater chance that they will support you.

I certainly hope you all remain healthy as we work through this second wave and wish all of you a Happy Thanksgiving.

About the Author

Shawn Peers is the President of DentalPeers. DentalPeers is one of Canada’s oldest, continuous operating buying groups exclusively for dentists.