The importance of going slow
For the longest time, I have been talking about how important it is to practise Slow Dentistry. Never before has it made more sense to take the appropriate amount of time to correctly disinfect your hands and properly disinfect the treatment room in between patients. In my practice, this has been standard protocol for over 20 years. What it really means behind the scenes is that, as a rule, we never see more than one patient per hour per dental chair and we properly disinfect the treatment room in between patients.
To be clear, I am not saying a dentist cannot see 30 patients a day; you can see as many patients a day as you can. If you can perform your treatment with quality quickly and safely, that is fine. What cannot happen is a fast turnaround time in between patients. All clinics must invest a minimum of 10 minutes in between appointments to properly disinfect all surfaces.
Now if you are managing a practice, it is legitimate to accept that one of your primary objectives is financial profit. It is normal and healthy in any business. The problem is, where do you draw the line between risking your health and the health of those around you in order to make a profit?
We are all now paying far more attention to the importance of properly disinfecting all surfaces. Like recently reported in an article, the recent global pandemic due to the SARS-CoV-2 virus has raised awareness of the problem of cross-contamination by viral particles on surfaces and fabrics and how these pathogens can stay active for a long period.
Obviously my medical training at university taught me the importance of properly tackling this problem, so when I started managing my own practice, I was presented with one simple choice: to see many patients a day to make more profit, at the risk of cross-contamination, or to reduce the number of patients and invest correctly in gold standard disinfection protocols, even if that meant less in the register at the end of a workday. Obviously I chose the latter, and it has been standard practice in my universe for my entire career. This means that, at the end of the year, my financial figures might not be as positive as a potential investor would like to see, but I am almost certain that there if was some kind of reward for reducing drastically the risk of cross-contamination between patients we would be at the top of the candidate list. If only we could bank ethics!
Only now are we understanding the importance of these little details, which actually cost my company quite a lot to perform. The time invested behind the scenes is never rewarded and nobody ever asks for it. We simply do it because of the ethical understanding that it is our duty to do no harm.
Patients too have a role to play here. They will call the practice and ask about the price of tooth cleaning, for example. They will not ask how the procedure is performed, how many people will perform it, or what technology is used. They very rarely will ask about the disinfection protocols employed. They simply ask for price.
Obviously, if patients keep on asking that question long enough, they will eventually create a marketplace that is solely focused on giving people what they appear to want: cheap dentistry.
We must start taking this very seriously!
A recent article in the New York Times showed how dentists are among the professionals that are at the highest risk of contracting SARS-CoV-2. This also means we can spread it to patients. So why should we be taking any further risks in the future with public health? It is time to go slow.
A few months ago in London, we held the very first Slow Dentistry meeting. A major concern raised by some of the attendees was that the average appointment time on the National Health Service was 15 minutes. In my opinion, this is a health risk and certainly not conducive to high-quality dentistry. Dentists are faced with the difficult dilemma of surviving financially and providing for their families, or ensuring public health. No one should have to make that decision. But the truth is that most clinics, corporate dental practices and dental support organisation business models would collapse if they started practising Slow Dentistry. They simply could not afford to invest the appropriate amount of time in between patients. This means that many business models for dental provision practised around the world today choose profit over safety. This is simply a fact. I predict that in a few months after this pandemic passes, and it will, people will change the way they choose a dental clinic.
Cost will become secondary to safety
It has always been the goal of Slow Dentistry to endorse dentists and clinics that go the extra mile to protect their patients and we make it a point to follow the ten steps to fight cross contamination.
The world will be different after this. What are you going to do to change with it? Email firstname.lastname@example.org to learn how you can join our global network and help to collectively shift the paradigm.