While the pandemic has had a significant effect on dental practices, it has taken an especially large toll on periodontal practices in the United Kingdom, report academics and undergraduate students at King’s College London (KCL) Faculty of Dentistry, Oral & Craniofacial Sciences.
The researchers sent an online survey to members of the British Society of Periodontology and Implant Dentistry, with 358 of them responding. It was issued around two months after initial restrictions were imposed and followed up two weeks after gradual returns to work were implemented.
The great majority of participants thought the pandemic had a significant impact on their profession, KCL said. Financial implications were high on the list of concerns for most respondents, with a major impact on their mental well-being as well.
Also, individuals highlighted the adverse effect of practice closures on patient perceptions of dentistry, concerns about the future of dentistry, and practical issues such as the need for spaced appointment times to deliver heightened infection control procedures.
Respondents additionally were concerned about providing appropriate levels of care during the pandemic.
“Respiratory droplet and aerosol transmission have been identified as potential routes of COVID-19 transmission,” said Dr. Mark Ide, reader in periodontology at KCL.
“Dental professionals have been identified as being very high risk of exposure, specifically when carrying out aerosol-generating procedures on infectious patients, and this has necessitated big changes in procedures throughout many aspects of dental care,” said Ide.
While these risks were a big worry, KCL said, most respondents had adapted to the new ways of delivering care, particularly infection control procedures. Most strongly agreed that their practices complied with pandemic guidelines and that they are now continuing to place a strong emphasis on these protocols.
“Although the COVID-19 pandemic is causing profound changes and worries for the profession of periodontology, clinicians are clear about their capability to control the situation and feel they have the motivation to make the required changes,” said Dr. Luigi Nibali, lead author and professor of periodontology.
“Most dentists and hygienists taking part in this survey felt they have physical and psychological ability to make the necessary changes to adapt to the new developments due to the pandemic, even if not all feel that opportunities for changes are available, which sends a clear message about the strength and resolve of the profession,” said Dr. Koula Asimakopoulou, reader in health psychology at KCL.
Additionally, 86% of respondents felt that the government had not sufficiently supported the dental profession during the period, while 86% moderately or strongly felt that the General Dental Council also had not supported the profession.
“The strength of these views was evident in free-response comments which confirmed that respondents felt more supported by some professional and specialist bodies such as the BDA, BSP, and BSDHT,” said Ide
“Investigating the professional response to change and expected impact is of interest in the current climate as we navigate the new normal. These results could be useful in informing support strategies moving forward,” said Ide.
The study, “The Perceived Impact of COVID-19 on Periodontal Practice in the United Kingdom: A Questionnaire Study,” was published by the Journal of Dentistry.