Many dentists feel a significant lack of confidence in their ability to implement necessary infection control measures and acquire personal protective equipment (PPE), according to a May 19 survey of more than 2,700 dental providers in 35 states and the District of Columbia by the DentaQuest Partnership.
For example, nine in 10 dental providers saw their patient volumes drop, with a 51% average decline in patient visits. Also, one in six practices had less than 15 days of cash on hand, and 28% of providers indicated that the dental emergencies they saw in the prior week were more severe than a typical week.
The survey also asked dentists if they were confident about implementing seven key factors in reducing the risk of COVID-19 infection: screening patients, screening staff, securing proper PPE, properly using PPE, cleaning and disinfecting operatories, reducing the use of aerosol-generating procedures, and reducing the spread of aerosols through the air.
According to the survey, 10% were not confident they could implement any of these factors to reduce risks. While 94% agreed that they should secure PPE, only 59% were confident that they could. And 65% agreed that their dental practice should reduce the spread of aerosols through the air, only 50% were confident they could do so.
Meanwhile, four out of 10 providers are currently seeing patients through telehealth platforms (27%) or soon expect to offer telehealth services (13%). Providers younger than 35, those in Medicaid-oriented practices, and those anticipating long-term changes in dentistry were particularly likely to embrace telehealth platforms.
Also, 31% of all providers and 51% of those providers currently using telehealth platforms cited the increased use of telehealth and other forms of noncontact dentistry as one of the long-term changes they expect to make as a result of COVID-19. In a separate survey, 79% patients who had a teledentistry encounter in Oregon were satisfied with their overall experience.