Change and the future of dental care in a global pandemic

15 Dec 2020

Two dental practitioners reflect on their experiences adapting to a global health emergency in the latest episode of the Taking care podcast.

All Australian state and territories are now out of government-enforced lockdowns thanks to communities pulling together to help stop the spread of COVID-19. During the lockdowns, the country’s dental profession was, at various times, restricted to providing emergency treatment only.

After months of strict public health restrictions, many in the community are reacting and responding to the ‘new normal’, what it means for us individually and our day-to-day life. For the dental profession, that has meant adapting to change and what the future of dental care will look like for both practitioners and the public as we learn to live with COVID-19.

Host Tash Miles speaks with Dr Rob Mayne, an orthodontist in private practice based in Victoria, Ms Neda Nikolovski, a senior prosthetist working for Queensland Health, and Luisa Interligi, Executive Officer of the Dental Board of Australia.

The nature of a dental practitioner’s work is high risk and the safety of patients, practitioners and staff is of critical importance for the profession.

‘As dentists and orthodontic specialists, we already had pretty high standards in infection control (before COVID-19). The pandemic showed we don’t have to make drastic changes to what we do, although it highlighted that we are able to change if needed,’ Dr Mayne said.

Asking questions to screen patients, including those who have recently returned from overseas, and implementing measures such as plastic barrier screens at dental practice customer service points, are going to be important factors in keeping everyone safe in the coming months.

‘It’s become the norm now and I think the biggest thing is going to be managing those people who could potentially be COVID positive … and keeping everybody safe, including staff who are treating them,’ Ms Nikolovski said.

‘We have to be better at screening patients and I guess patients have to be able to answer some of the questions honestly … and be happy to defer appointments … it’s not necessarily going to affect their ongoing care,’ Dr Mayne said.

Tips for patients

Tips to help the public make sure they are getting safe care from their dental practitioner are published on the Dental Board of Australia website.

‘The website has tips for patients that will help them think about the questions they can ask of their dental practitioner,’ Ms Interligi said.

Support for dental practitioners

A national health and wellbeing support service for dental practitioners is available 24/7 on 1800 377 700.

Launched in July 2020, Dental Practitioner Support provides confidential advice and referral to all dental practitioners, which includes dentists, dental prosthetists, oral health therapists, dental hygienists and dental therapists.

Anyone calling the service does not have to give their name and can seek support anonymously. For more information, go to dpsupport.org.au.

Download the podcast

Download and listen to the latest Ahpra Taking care podcast episode today. Ahpra releases a new episode every fortnight, discussing current topics and the latest issues affecting safe healthcare in Australia. You can also listen and subscribe on Spotify, Apple Podcasts and by searching ‘Taking care’ in your podcast player.

This is the last Taking care podcast for 2020. The production team wishes everyone a safe and relaxing festive break and looks forward to returning in early 2021 with more conversations about public safety and healthcare.

For more information

  • If you have questions or feedback about the podcast, email communications@ahpra.gov.au.    
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  • For registration enquiries, please phone 1300 419 495 (within Australia) +61 3 9285 3010  (overseas callers).
 
 
Page reviewed 15/12/2020