When Are We Going Back to “Normal”?

by David R. Farkouh, BSc, DMD, MSc, FRCD(C)

COVID-19 has certainly turned our world upside down. Nowhere is this truer than in the dental profession. Dental offices all over our country have had to step up measures to ensure that our patients and staff are safe. In fact, dentistry has been a success story with how well we have all done to prevent the transmission of COVID-19. The question, however, of when and how we are all going to go back to “normal” is brought up constantly. We all miss our old lives. We have all had to change how we do dentistry. That is not easy to do when we have all been consistent and successful at providing dental care for our patients for so long.

My pediatric dental office is not the same place it was before the pandemic. Firstly, we have had to make children feel comfortable and alleviate anxiety while dressed like we are removing asbestos from an old house. Everything about the personal protective equipment (PPE) we wear is foreign to a young child. PPE has certainly introduced new challenges to our job. Don’t you find yourself and your staff yelling at each other because you can’t hear through the N95 mask, the face shield and the drone of the air-purifiers? Pediatric dentistry is only successful with effective communication, and now we can’t effectively communicate. Another challenge I have noticed is the increased risk of a child biting their anaesthized lip. We discuss at length with the parents the need to monitor their child closely for lip biting which has now become hidden behind the use of our mandatory mask. It used to be easier to prevent lip biting in children following dental treatment. I used to pride myself in having one of the best toy boxes and now it is nonexistent due to COVID. Now I have a “toy table” and the joy of my patients rummaging through a toy chest looking for that special prize has been replaced with directions to only touch the toy they are going to take home. That’s not as fun!

Despite all of the changes we have had to make, I think we have done remarkably well. In fact, we have done so well that it is my belief that we are not going back to the old “normal”. Many of these added precautions are going to stay. As an example, now that I wear a face-shield I can’t believe I didn’t wear one consistently before. We have all been surprised investigating the debris on our face-shields after doing a filling. It is disgusting! Although we long for our old lives to return we should all prepare for the “new normal” that is ahead of us. We really are fortunate to be part of a profession that allows us to safely help people whether in a pandemic or not.

About the Editor

Dr David Farkouh is a pediatric dentist working in private practice in midtown Toronto, Ontario. He is on staff at the Hospital for Sick Children and is the Pediatric Dentistry Editor for Oral Health.

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See more articles from the 2022 Pediatric Dentistry issue!