Clinics were shut during peak of the second wave
Tanisha Kannan of Mysuru experienced severe toothache in mid-March. At that time, the second wave of Covid-19 was just around the corner. Terrified, she decided to postpone her visit to a dentist and tolerated the pain for some more time. To her horror, the tooth had begun to decay. There was no other way but to see a doctor. After a couple of virtual check-ups, she was able to meet her doctor, who straightaway recommended her extraction.
“My condition had got bad. I was experiencing excruciating pain. There came a time when I thought I couldn’t bear it any longer. It took me four virtual sessions with my doctor to finally meet her in person,” Tanisha said.
Sonia Chandok, a teacher who was suffering from toothache, had to wait for three months before she could meet a dentist. “The pain was due to a troubling wisdom tooth. It had to be extracted, but reaching out to a dentist was difficult. I tried connecting with a dentist over the phone. He had put me on painkillers that had reduced the pain. Later, I went for extraction when the lockdown was lifted.”
More patients with pending dental issues have started to revisit clinics with Covid cases reducing.
During the second wave, many dental clinics were shut down due to the nature of service that requires close physical proximity between the doctor and the patient
“We had to shut down for a month. We had to wait for one and a half months to analyze the situation before opening up. We wanted to keep in mind the safety of both the doctors and the patients,” said Dr Ramya who works at Sabka Dentist, a dental chain in Bengaluru.
Dr Malini Bhaumik, an experienced dentist, said: “For me, Covid protocols are just a step-up. I was particular earlier, and I am a little more particular now. I can’t sit at home forever, so I had decided long back to open up my clinic and face my fears. Opening the clinic or keeping it closed is an individual choice, but for me, I have always been Robinson Crusoe. “However, I was extremely careful with high-risk groups which included elderly patients and those with comorbidities. They were strictly advised to stay at home as long as possible,” she added.
Asked about people’s approach towards dental care during the pandemic, Bhaumik said: “Dental care has never been a priority in this country. One reason for this is the lack of mediclaim policies that support the expenses and encourage routine checkups. During the pandemic, when salaries were halved, such treatments would have been more difficult to bear.”
Asked how doctors differentiated between emergency and non-emergency cases, Dr Ichita Joshi, a dentist, said aesthetic procedures requiring scaling of teeth and putting up braces were postponed as they didn’t require immediate attention. However, serious issues like swelling of gums, bad cavity and pus formation were given preference. She recalled incidents where procedures were left midway due to the pandemic. This led to further problems such as chipping away of the dental cap in cases of an unfinished root canal.
Dr Navneet Kaur, a senior lecturer at the Army School of Dentistry, said: “Dentistry is different from other physical procedures. A dental ailment requires physical intervention and cannot be solely treated with medicines. Also, it makes use of aerosol procedures which bring a practitioner in direct contact with the patient’s discharges such as blood, saliva and mucus, making the procedure highly risky for doctors and patients.”
According to the Dental Council of India, keeping in mind the current scenario, dentists must treat dental emergencies only after knowing the detailed dental and medical history of the patient.