Dental Tribune Europe

DIY dentistry during the SARS-CoV-2 pandemic

LONDON, UK: As a result of the SARS-CoV-2 pandemic, dental practices across the world have been partially or completely shut down and routine dental check-ups largely postponed. For a few unlucky people, however, widespread lockdowns have left them unable to access dental services during oral emergencies, leaving them with a single viable option: do-it-yourself (DIY) dentistry.

When the severity of the coronavirus outbreak’s destabilising impact became apparent earlier this year, many national dental associations were relatively quick to react. By late March, dental practices in a number of countries, including Canada, Australia, the UK and the US, had been ordered to effectively close their doors to the general public owing to the potential for the spread of SARS-CoV-2 in such environments.

Though many of these countries have since eased health restrictions and begun to reopen dental practices for non-essential services, there are nevertheless a wide range of precautions now in place to limit the transmission of SARS-CoV-2 in healthcare settings. These precautions have resulted in vulnerable patient groups having to opt for such alternatives as teledentistry, and in recent weeks, numerous dentists and patients have come forward to share their experiences with at-home dentistry.

Patients taking matters into their own hands

“We have heard tales of people attempting to take their own teeth out,” Dr Catherine Tannahill, regional head of clinical dentistry at Portman Dental Care, recently told the BBC. “We’ve had people sticking crowns back on with superglue, then finding that they’ve stuck their lip to their tooth. We’ve had people bursting abscesses—none of this we would advise.”

Though Tannahill’s examples might seem extreme, there have been multiple reports of patients performing dental procedures on themselves owing to their inability to secure an appointment. Billy Taylor, a 33-year-old aircraft fitter, achieved a certain kind of notoriety in April when the story of him extracting his own infected tooth was widely published, and Debroy Parrington told the BBC that he experienced “immediate relief” after pulling a tooth out that had been giving him toothache.

Dr Yasmin George has begun offering teledentistry services ever since her dental practice was forced to shut down owing to the SARS-CoV-2 pandemic. (Image: Yasmin George)

Dr Yasmin George, a Surrey-based dentist, told Dental Tribune International (DTI) that the abruptness with which dental services in the UK were shut down resulted in several of her practice’s patients missing out on pre-scheduled appointments for critical treatments such as denture fittings. As a result, she immediately turned to providing teledentistry services that, at times, included instructing patients and their family members on how to perform somewhat complex dental procedures.

“On the last day we were open, I just loaded up the car with gloves, masks and hand sanitisers and began distributing them to some of our patients who wouldn’t have access to these sorts of things,” George said to DTI.

She continued: “A couple of weeks into lockdown, one of my patients broke her tooth at the gingival level. If she’d been able to come in, I would have sealed it off with a bit of temporary filling material to prevent it from getting infected, but since she couldn’t see me, I had to instruct her husband on how to do it over the phone, with their daughter holding a camera so that I could follow along.”

“He ended up doing a fantastic job, but it was still a very stressful experience,” George concluded.

The way forward

Despite her misgivings about the technology, George stated that she would certainly continue to offer teledentistry services in the future, particularly during the early pre-diagnostic stages of dental treatment. It is a sentiment that she shares with Dr Jalal Khan, the operator of a mobile dental surgery truck. In an interview with DTI last month, the Australia-based dentist said that he believed that the major use of teledentistry services was for triage purposes prior to an initial consultation rather than for diagnostic purposes.

Both George and Khan were, however, broadly opposed to the idea of dentist-guided DIY dentistry becoming a more common treatment option in the future. The American Dental Association (ADA) echoed its concerns in a response on the topic to DTI, stating: “Before any DIY dental treatment, it’s important that patients speak with their dentist about the potential risks and benefits. The ADA believes that, without the involvement of a licensed dentist, patients lose a very important quality control checkpoint—their dentist—to ensure all aspects of their treatment are performed and are progressing in the best interests of the patient.”

Whereas there might seem to be benefits to conducting DIY dentistry, particularly during these trying times, the truth of the matter remains: the best way for patients to take care of their oral health is under the guidance of a dental professional.

  1. Franziska Beier says:

    Dear Leslie,
    thank you for your comment. We are aware that the situation is critical for all dental health care workers and this is why we used “dental professionals” in the introduction instead of “dentists”. Also, dental assistants are specifically mentioned in the Albertan analyses with a a very high index of 97.5 (even more than dentists). Kind regards, Franziska from DTI

  2. Israel Hidalgo says:

    Quisiera información sobre rehabilitación estética de la sonrisa

  3. Leslie D. Fehl says:

    When will the dental community recognize and identify the Dental Assistant as a dental professional and a vital DHCP? The dental team that is subjected to the dangers are not only the dentist and hygienist. Please identify all DHCP.

  4. Mamta says:

    A new and interesting perspective.

  5. Syed Md Ahmed says:

    Hello,
    Please tell me whether the prerequisite of teaching in a university previously or currently is mandatory to persue this two year course or any Dental/Medical graduate can persue it. As Iam a Dental graduate, with a BEd(Bachelor of Education) degree as well,can I persue this degree? I shall be grateful to you if you provide me the necessary information as I was having plans to join a Dental college as a Lecturer.This degree would add a golden feather to my cap. Thank you.

  6. Nilay says:

    Can 11 watt tube be effective to kill coronavirus from 2.5 ft distance in box.

  7. mel says:

    E M Dutton, it would most certainly have not been the iodine.

  8. Joseph Velazquez says:

    What is the price for 1 ultra tooth implant?

  9. Dr Hishant U.Jain says:

    Very well written covering all the aspects plus the much need optimism and positive side that may be the future of dentistry after this Covid menace…. Hats off to you sir

  10. Araceli says:

    Me interesa

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