The dental industry experienced several unique conditions during the COVID-19 pandemic, comparative to other licensed professionals. Prior to these conditions, dentists and hygienists certainly already had particularly sensitive working conditions with strict PPE protocols. Given the fact that their industry relies directly on work within the mouth, a pandemic that is spread through the nose and mouth is particularly detrimental to the ability to safely perform work.
Just like many industries, most dental practices initially closed at the start of the pandemic. However, due to the fact that their work requires access to the mouth, a threat of direct exposure during the pandemic from potentially ill clients was something that many professionals had to seriously consider when thinking of reopening. Many industries were able to implement strict social distancing protocols and mask mandates and greatly reduce the risk of spread and exposure; however, the dental industry is unable to follow all of these protocols since a mask cannot be worn during treatment. The common solution was to implement more stringent PPE protocols on behalf of the dentist or hygienist, who often wear a combination of face shield, (K)N95 masks, gloves, scrubs, hair nets, and other protective wear to help reduce their risk when treating clients. The costs of purchasing PPE increased exponentially and often became difficult to find for many professionals.
The particularly focused risk of exposure made many professionals delay reopening and remain closed as infection spread. Although remote work was/is an option for many industries, there is very little that can be done in the dental industry beyond internal billing and general administrative work. Income is produced almost solely from in-patient visits. If patients are not allowed in the office or the office is entirely closed, then income cannot be generated. Many dental professionals suffered from an extreme loss of income that could only be rectified if they reopened under what were considered to be generally unsafe conditions. This struggle placed many professionals in a precarious position with few options for help. The inevitability of reopening and the unwavering support of client demand has allowed many of those who struggled to bounce back as conditions improve in the pandemic.
As normalcy returns, many dental professionals note that their protocols regarding PPE for both professional and client remain in place, and the stringent protocols of social distancing and sanitizing practices will remain in place even as conditions improve. In an industry that simply generally exposes all parties to germs due to the nature of treatment, these protocols are welcomed to improve everyone’s experience of cleanliness and safety.
Williams & Nickl has represented thousands of licensed professionals and their licensed business entities who face issues with IDFPR. If you find yourself in such a situation, Williams & Nickl can provide the help you need.